Cooper City coach Brandon Walker challenged his team, which was down a point, at halftime of Thursday night’s District 12-8A game against host McArthur.
The Cowboys answered the call, outscoring the Mustangs with two touchdowns in the final two quarters for a 19-7 victory in a rain-soaked affair.
“I told them if we wanted to win we had to run the football,” Walker said. “Offensive line did a great job in the second half opening up holes.”
Momentum swung in Cooper City’s favor during the third. Set to punt on fourth and long the Cowboys (2-2) instead converted a fourth-and-3 following consecutive penalties by McArthur (1-2).
Following a first-and-goal from the 10-yard line, back-to-back bad snaps pushed Cooper City back to the 27. After an offsides penalty, junior quarterback Tyler Sabine’s 22-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Lukas Volpe held as the go-ahead score with 5:46 left in the third.
As the rain, which also visited pregame, returned, the Cowboys tacked on another touchdown with 4:52 to go in the fourth.
Senior Jarrett Morgan’s 5-yard touchdown run capped the scoring to culminate a drive that ate up the clock with an 11-play drive — all on rushes.
“Just hold onto the ball,” said Morgan, who rushed for a game-high 111 yards on 19 carries. “We knew if we held on with two hands and didn’t turn the ball over we could win. We kept the ball on the offensive side.”
Early on in an offensive struggle, Cooper City blocked junior Malik Wisdom’s punt. Senior Grant Frasher recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown with 9:11 remaining in the second quarter. The extra point, however, was blocked.
In a scoreless first quarter neither team collected a first down until Sabine and Volpe connected for an 11-yard reception on the final play. The Mustangs mustered just 11 total yards through the game’s first 12 minutes, while the Cowboys tallied 17.
After a turnover on downs with 50 seconds remaining in the half, McArthur took over from their 45. Junior quarterback Janarvis Pugh and senior Damian Richardson connected for a 7-yard gain. Pugh then rushed 5 yards for the team’s first first down with 33.1 seconds left.
Pugh added another 9 yards on a scramble. On the next play, he eluded two tacklers and found junior wideout Alex Fowler in the back of the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 15.3 seconds to go, giving the Mustangs a 7-6 halftime advantage.
Prior to that drive, Pugh went 5 for 17. He finished 10 for 28 with 78 yards.
McArthur collected just 125 total yards and five first downs.
“Can’t say enough about our kids,” Walker said. “They played hard, they responded well to the challenge I gave them, and it’s a good district win. We move forward from it.”