The number 4 holds a special significance for the McLoud Redskins.
The McLoud defense held Mannford on fourth-and-goal from the Redskin 4-yard-line with just under two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and the Redskins secured their fourth straight District 4A-2 victory, 7-3, Friday night.
If you’re doing the math at home, that’s a four-point margin.
More importantly, it guarantees that McLoud (5-2, 4-0), which didn’t win a game last season, will finish no worse than third in the district, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008 – four years ago.
“We’re excited to be back in it,” McLoud head coach Eric Cardin said.
By winning its fifth game, McLoud has already eclipsed its win total from the last three seasons combined.
Redskin quarterback Joseph Wood, who missed last season with a knee injury, continues to find ways to win. Despite throwing two interceptions and losing one fumble, Wood led the Redskins down the field in the fourth quarter and scored the only touchdown of the game, a 1-yard sneak.
Both teams played stifling defense, especially in the first half. The scoreboard went undisturbed until midway through the third quarter when Jorge Carvajal booted a 25-yard field goal through the north uprights for the Pirates (1-6, 1-3).
Wood, who tossed for 106 yards, had a dismal night through the air, but stepped up when it counted, hitting Will Olds on a 54-yard tunnel screen to set up the game-winning touchdown.
After he teams traded drives that ended on turnovers-on-downs, the Pirates drove 38 yards in five plays to set up the fourth-and-goal from the 4. After the final Pirate pass hit the turf, the Redskins were able to run out the clock.
“That was a great goal line stand. We’d come out and played flat and made enough mistakes all night to lose this game, but our kids stood up at the end and made a great goal-line stand inside the five.”
Both offenses struggled to find a groove all night. The McLoud offense didn’t cross into Mannford territory for the first 22 minutes of the game, and ended that drive with a fumble. McLoud ended another drive on downs in the fourth quarter, even after Wood scrambled for 38 yards for a first down on a third-and-21.
Mannford fared no better. Mannford signal-caller Luke May threw for 88 yards and a pick, and the offense failed to convert on three fourth-downs, including a fake punt with eight minutes left in the game.
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Penalties plagued both teams, with McLoud racking up six by the end of the first quarter and 11 for the game.
“Our kids just weren’t very focused [in the first half]. We put it together in the second half and did a lot better job,” Cardin said.
Wood led McLoud in rushing with 67 yards on 15 carries, while Klayton Adams — the only other ballcarrier for the Redskins — managed 13 yards on 10 rushes.
Will Olds caught three balls for 76 yards, and Zaylon Mahtapene tallied 33 yards receiving, catching three of Wood’s passes playing offense and one of May’s while playing defense.
Tyler Gibson led the charge for the Pirates, with 47 yards on 16 carries. Tyler Frailey and Blane Hopkins each recorded an interception.
McLoud stays home next Thursday to entertain Douglass. Douglass and McLoud, along with Ada, stand atop the District 4A-2 standings with 4-0 records.
Mannford is at home next week against Santa Fe South.