By BOB CRAMER
Making big plays literally from the football game’s first snap until its last, Mustang High stunned Union’s Redskins, 23-21, Friday in suburban Tulsa.
Quarterback Hayden Conrad threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to receiver Chris Duran with 15 seconds left, propelling Mustang to a critical District 6A-1 victory over the Redskins at Union-Tuttle Stadium.
Conrad’s pass found a wide open Duran streaking down the left side of the field after he made a stutter move, then burst past Union sophomore cornerback Jayden Rowe.
“Hayden threw a perfect ball to one of our most sure-handed receivers, who ran a perfect route,” Mustang head coach Lee Blankenship said of Duran, a speedy 6-foot, 175-pound senior. “We knew Chris had one-on-one coverage.
“He ran a stutter-and-go. The cornerback bit hard when Chris stuttered his feet, thinking we were throwing a quick stop route at the sticks. Chris reaccelerated and ran right by him.”
Duran called Conrad’s pass “a perfect ball. He hit me right in stride.
“It was a great win, our first ever over Union.”
Conrad led Mustang on its game-winning 13-play, 64-yard drive as the Broncos converted on third down twice and fourth down once.
“It was urgency without panic,” Conrad said of the drive. “Coach Blank is always teaching us that you have to be calm within chaos.”
The series had been set up with 3:38 left when senior defensive end Eddie Granados pounced on a fumble by Union sophomore quarterback Rovaughn Banks at the Mustang 36.
Bronco senior tailback Harvey Phillips ran for first downs on 3rd-and-6 at the Mustang 40 and 4th-and-3 at the Union 46 with carries of seven and six yards, respectively.
Conrad’s TD pass came on a 3rd-and-11 play. He ended the game hitting 6-of-17 passes for 66 yards, two of them to Duran for 30 yards.
Phillips, who rushed 21 times for 103 yards and one touchdown, had hobbled off the field moments earlier after withstanding a hard hit by a Redskin defender, Mustang offensive coordinator Cody McDaniel said.
“I got roughed up. I’m a little sore, but I’m OK,” Phillips said, noting it was nothing that an ice bath can’t fix.
“Harvey has as much heart as any kid I’ve ever coached,” said Blankenship, who was pleased with the Broncos’ 198 rushing yards on 46 carries.
“Khary (Brown, 50 rushing yards) and Devyn (Martin, 36 yards) had some gutsy runs tonight that helped us win the football game.”
Mustang improved to 3-2 overall, 1-1 in 6A-1. Union, one of Oklahoma’s most dominant programs the past two decades, dropped to 1-4 and 0-2 in district.
The Bronco offensive line had a big night, Blankenship said. It came up huge in the third quarter after Union scored two touchdowns in the first seven minutes to erase Mustang’s 10-0 halftime lead.
The Broncos immediately answered Union’s score, regaining a 17-14 lead on Phillips’ 33-yard TD run.
“It was an off-tackle run to our right,” Blankenship said. “Harvey hit the hole at 100 miles an hour. Brevan Russell made the key block at right tackle, followed by blocks by Connor Leeper and Wyatt King that opened the hole up.”
Banks, the Redskins’ elusive third-string quarterback, dashed 33 yards as Union went back ahead 21–17 at 11:12 of the fourth quarter, setting up the dramatic finish. He had 102 yards and two TDs on 10 rushes.
The Broncos shocked Union on the first play of the game when second-string quarterback Trent DeSmet fumbled a high snap in the shotgun formation. Mustang linebacker Colt Humphrey scooped the football up and rambled 12 yards for the touchdown just four seconds into the game.
Union’s first-string QB, J.D. Geneva, had been injured Sept. 27 in the Redskins’ 34-10 loss to unbeaten Owasso.
Union fumbled four times, losing three, and also was intercepted by safety Liam Krivanek.
Mustang’s other fumble recovery came on a huge play in the first quarter at the Bronco 1-yard line. Banks lost the handle, and safety Joseph Sylvester grabbed it and scooted 10 yards.
Mustang kicker Kory Soulinthavong booted a 40-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Mustang defensive coordinator Sam Dollar’s defense bent — allowing 335 total yards — but didn’t break often.
Besides Humphrey and Sylvester, Dollar praised the play of junior defensive end Korelon Hayden and the Broncos’ D-Line. As usual, Krivanek was all over the field, too.
“Korelon Hayden did a great job,” Dollar said. “I put a lot on his plate tonight. He did a great job adjusting and moving around in different positions. Our D-tackles — Jett Woodward, Anthony Gscheidle and Christian Rowland — rotated and played fast and fresh.”
Mustang limited explosive Union running back AJ Green to 101 yards and one TD on 15 carries.
Both teams struggled with penalties: Mustang had 13 for 80 yards, and the Redskins drew nine flags for 85 yards.
Blankenship said beating Union rivaled his 2017 Beggs team defeating Sulphur 37-28 in the Class 3A semifinals. Beggs lost 14-7 to John Marshall in the title game.
Krivanek talked about the Broncos’ approach to playing Union.
“We knew we were prepared and had a good week of practice,” he said. “The coaches had us in the right spots. Whether anybody believed it or not, the players and coaching staff knew we could win.”