Greg Taylor’s been around high school football a long time, so he knows that regular-season victories occasionally can get overblown.
But the Myers Park coach also knows there are nights when a win, even if it comes in just the third conference game of the season, can do a great deal for a team’s confidence and momentum.
And maybe, just maybe, last Friday night was big for Myers Park.
The injury-ravaged Mustangs went from the high of holding a first-half lead over rival Ardrey Kell to the low of seeing it turn into a deficit with less than a minute left in the game to the euphoria of rallying to score a late touchdown and make a clinching defensive stand in a 21-14 victory.
It was the second consecutive victory for Myers Park, improving its record to 4-3, 2-1 in the Southwestern 4A conference.
Sure, it merely was a regular-season win, but it clearly was meaningful.
The game-winning touchdown pass had come from hard-nosed quarterback Ross Jeffries, who’d been crowned homecoming king at the intermission, to resilient receiver Shakeal O’Bryant with just 31 ticks left on the clock. Senior Jaquaris Eaves made a victory-assuring interception in the end zone with three seconds remaining.
And when it was all over, the Myers Park players stormed toward the Memorial Stadium stands to celebrate with a fan base that has to trek uptown to “home” games because of ongoing renovations to the Mustangs’ on-campus facility.
Amid the celebration, Taylor, in his third season leading the Mustangs, did his best to lessen the risk of his team getting too emotionally high after a regular-season win.
“This win makes us 4-3, but it really doesn’t do anything,” he said. “We’ve got to finish. I talk to the kids about it all the time: ‘The teams that work hard and improve the most are the ones that are going to make the playoffs.’ And, yes, I think this team’s improving.
“Now how many wins that turns into, I don’t know. Right now, we’re an improving football team, and that’s the goal. You’ve got to let the other stuff fall where it may.”
Jaquavion Alexander led the Mustangs with 185 yards rushing and a touchdown, while Jeffries added two touchdown tosses (to O’Bryant and Tadarin McNeil).
Taylor’s players couldn’t contain their enthusiasm after the game. Take Eaves, who has the swagger and loquaciousness of a big-time cornerback.
Asked if he’d ever made an interception such as the one he made last week, Eaves didn’t hesitate.
“Plenty of ’em!” he said. “I saw I had to lift my team, and I had to be clutch. I saw my teammates working hard, and I had to do the same.
“I saw the ball coming, and I said, ‘This is going to be mine, baby! This is my ball. I’m taking it to the house.’”
Eaves, though, smartly took a knee in the end zone to secure the outcome.
Asked if he was at least a little nervous as the play began, Eaves let his guard down – momentarily.
“A little bit – just a little bit,” he said. “But I had heart. I know that I can make big plays.
“As a team, we played our hardest. We proved everybody wrong. The Mustangs, we are somebody, baby!”
For much of the season, they’ve been the walking wounded. Jeffries has nursed an injured shoulder for several games. Taylor said his center, Triston Frye, is playing with a torn meniscus.
“If we have two more injuries, we’re going to get an Injured Reserve bus,” Taylor quipped. “I’m telling you, there were no fewer than 14 jerseys over there not dressed out (against Ardrey Kell). We’ve got a lot of kids who’ve played hurt, but we’ve got a whole bunch of injuries that other kids can’t play through, like concussions.
“Hopefully, we’ll start to get some of those kids back. When that happens, we ought to be a stronger football team.”
So considering the injuries, considering last week’s rally and considering the fact that the win over Ardrey Kell kept the Mustangs above .500 in the conference and on pace for a playoff berth, could Taylor at least admit that this regular-season game can help his team’s momentum?
“Yeah,” he said with a sigh. “I would like to think it does.”