After rolling through an entire regular season without losing a game, the McArthur Mustangs felt like they perhaps were not getting the respect they deserved.
On Friday night they went out and did something about it.
Hosting a Doral Academy team making its first playoff appearance in the 15-year history of the program in a Region 4-7A quarterfinal, host McArthur secured an impressive 34-17 victory over Doral to move their record to 11-0. McArthur was making its first playoff appearance since 2008 and the win marked its first postseason victory since 2003.
McArthur will travel south to Miami-Dade County next Friday to take on Mater Academy in a regional semifinal at 7:30 at Milander Stadium.
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“It is what it is and we’ve tried not to worry too much about that,” McArthur coach LaRon Culpepper said when asked about the lack of respect his team has gotten. “We don’t play for anybody else, we just go out there and play for ourselves. If nobody wants to come out and write about us or give us credit for what we’re doing, then so be it. All we can do is come out here and take care of our business and that’s what we did [Friday].”
Leading just 14-10 at the half, the Mustangs broke open a close game with a big 20-point third quarter. The game began to swing when Doral running back Javier Zuniga fumbled at his own 10 on Doral’s first second-half possession.
Two plays later, quarterback Deon Jones scored from a yard out to make it 21-10. The dagger play might have come on the next possession when, on fourth-and-6 from the Doral 33, Jones dropped back and found Dominick Watt in the end zone for a score and 27-10 lead. Craig Cooper Jr. scored from 20 yards out with a minute left in the third quarter to salt it away.
Jones turned in a monster night as he finished 16-of-20 passing for 263 yards and three touchdowns while doing damage with his feet as well rushing for 57 yards on 13 carries.
“It was just about teamwork tonight and everybody coming out focused and doing their jobs,” Jones said. “We had that big third quarter and that was the difference. We don’t care about any of the respect stuff right now. All we want to do is come out and play for ourselves. We’re family and I think the less respect we get, the better we play.”
Trailing 3-0 after one quarter, McArthur dented the scoreboard for the first time when, following a short Firebird punt, it went 45 yards in just two plays, Jones finding a wide open Damarco Harris down the left side for a 35-yard score 8:12 before halftime.
After Doral answered with an impressive 11-play, 76 yard drive, quarterback Angel Alvarez hooking up with Natavious Payne for a 33-yard score to take a 10-7 lead, the Mustangs came right back as Jones did with his feet and his arm.
Three runs for 24 yards and three pass completions for 47 yards put the Mustangs on the Doral 14 before he found a wide open Watt for a 14-yard score with 2:02 left in the first half.
Said Culpepper: “From what I know and I played here 25 years ago, this is the greatest team in McArthur history and we’re not even close to done yet. We’ve got a lot of noise left to make.”