McLaughlin’s untested Mustangs came into Braves’ country on September 3rd for their first real game of the season. Since their 2021 season opener was a forfeit, their mettle was unknown. The Braves had a tough go of it in their opener, so it was anyone’s guess how the All-Nation Conference Game would go. No one could prognosticate the outcome of this contest between boarding neighbors.
The Braves went on offense immediately following the kickoff by the Mustangs from their own 41-yard line. After four quick running plays they surrendered the ball over to McLaughlin on downs, but Ashten Ganje and Ayden Sampson clearly showed they were able to churn up yards.
Sophomore Brock Ducheneaux’s name was specifically called out for the first time by the game announcer on Live Ticket for his stellar defensive play on the first possession by the Mustangs. C-EB held McLaughlin to three attempts to gain a first down and forced the Mustangs to punt.
With the ball resting on the Braves’ 31-yard line, they lined up in shotgun formation to start their second possession of the game. Unfortunately the snap was errant and, just as Ashten Ganje put his hands on the ball to pick it up, a Mustang hit him and caused the ball to bounce away. It was recovered by McLaughlin.
The ball was spotted on the Braves’ 15-yard line, and the great field position gave the Mustangs their first opportunity. McLaughlin called a dive play for running back Number 5, Rayden Bull Head. He bolted to the right and then sprang to the outside to get the Mustangs’ first score of the evening.
With Rayden’s brother under the center, Renzo Bull Horn called his own number to try for a two-point conversion. First he ran to his left and then suddenly reserved direction, which allowed him to successfully complete the conversion to make the score 8 to 0.
Due to an unsportsmanlike penalty following the touchdown, the Mustangs were forced to kick off from their own 25-yard line. However, instead of trying to pin the Braves as far back as they could, they onside kicked the ball. This surprise allowed them to recover the ball on their own 39-yard line. The Mustangs were right back on offense.
In the possession that followed, Brock Ducheneaux’s name was again broadcast over Live Ticket when he made another great stop on the Mustangs’ running back and prevented him from gaining enough yards to get another first down. Then, on fourth-and-eight, Number 22 Adam Berndt formally introduced himself to Mr. Renzo Bull Head as he sacked the Mustangs’ quarterback to turn the ball back over to C-EB.
After another calamity of errors, the Braves soon found themselves on their own 37-yard line needing 37 yards to get a first down, let alone a touchdown. Under a “bull rush” by McLaughlin, Ashten Ganje, who was in shotgun formation, did a dump pass to Number 11, Zander Bowman, that never went across the line of scrimmage.
Once the 5’7” junior wide receiver caught the ball he went quickly to his left, broke one tackle, decked two would-be tacklers bearing down on him out of their shoes, cut back to the right, and then kicked in the afterburners to out-distance the rest McLaughlin’s defenders to score an 87-yard touchdown for the Braves, for his school, and all the fans who love C-EB football. The ball was fumbled on the conversion attempt. Nevertheless, the Braves had their first score of the season – 8 to 6.
On the subsequent kickoff, Liam Veaux smacked the ball down to the Mustangs’ 30-yard line where the McLaughlin players could not pick it up. Mustangs Number 11, Levyn White Bull, finally corralled the bouncing ball which appearing to be anyone’s property. With all the Braves converging on that one spot, White Bull was able to break containment to run a clear 70-yard path to the end zone. Mustangs running back Rayden Bull Head was abruptly stopped on the two-point conversion attempt by Adam Berndt to keep the Braves close – 14 to 6.
In the following kickoff the Mustangs facilitated another on-side kick. In a déjà vu the ball bounced off a Brave and McLaughlin recovered the loose pigskin. Quarterback Renzo Bull Head punched the ball over the goal line from the 4-yard line at the end of an eight-play drive by the Mustangs. Then on a quick pass from Bull Head to his split end, Jeremiah Longman, the Mustangs tacked on another 2 points to make the score 22 to 6.
With 18 seconds left in the first period the Mustangs pressed their luck and tried a squib kick; but this time Braves Number 66, El’Wyn Bearstops, put an end to the shenanigans and picked up the bouncing ball to run it back ten yards to put the Braves back on offense at the 50-yard line.
After the first quarter expired and the two teams flipped direction, Braves quarterback Ganje tried to throw the ball over the middle and unfortunately it was picked off by Mustang Renzo Bull Head, who plays linebacker on defense, and ran the ball back to the Braves’ 20-yard line.
In their fifth possession of the game, the Mustangs were made aware that the Braves were not done fighting. After ten plays the Mustangs managed to get the ball to the Braves’ 3-yard line; but the Braves kept the Mustangs out of the end zone in a great goal line stand and got the ball back. So many Braves contributed to this great defensive stand: Ashten Ganje knocked down a pass and Hudson Neigel, Jaxson Garreau and, of course, Brock Ducheneaux laid the wood to the Mustangs running backs.
And then like Junior Samples used to say on “Hee Haw” back in the day, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all,” the Braves had a bad snap into the end zone and Ganje was tackled for a Safety, pushing the score to 24 to 6.
However, the Braves arguably had their best offensive series of the game after they stopped the Mustangs in five plays following the kickoff. The Braves bulled their way to the Mustangs’ 31-yard line on the running of Adam Berndt, Hudson Sampson, and Ashten Ganje.
Then lightning struck twice because Ganje hit Zander Bowman in full stride and the speedy back took the ball in for the Braves’ second touchdown of the game. With an unsuccessful conversion try the score was 24 to 12. The Braves were once again within striking distance.
The Braves were feeling good and still playing great defense. The Braves stopped the Mustangs running attack, especially up the middle, due mostly to Lathan Lawrence becoming a stonewall. But as the Braves’ luck would go, with only 4 seconds left to play in the first half, Mustangs’ quarterback Renzo Bull Head stepped up in the pocket and fired the ball 39-yards in the air to his wide receiver, Jeremiah Longman, who was in the end zone as the buzzer sounded. With the conversion play no good the half ended 30 to 12.
The second half did not start any better for the home team. On a great kickoff by the Braves Liam Veaux to the Mustangs’ 20-yard line, Jeremiah Longman picked up the ball and ran it to the middle of the field. With all the Braves also converging to the middle, Longman then broke to the right and completed an 80-yard touchdown run. With the Extra Try no good, the score became 36 to 12.
On a deep kickoff that pushed the Braves back to their own 17-yard line, CEB started their first possession of the second half – their seventh overall. With a penalty and yards hard to come by, the Braves found themselves third-and-seven on their own 19-yard line. But then on a perfect pass up the middle by Ganje, he once more hit the speedy Zander Bowman in full stride and the mighty wide receiver took the ball 81-yards for their – Ganje/Bowman – third touchdown pass of the night. With Ganje running in the conversion try with the help of his linemen pushing him from behind, he helped get the score to 36 to 20.
Liam Veaux kicked the ball deep on the Kickoff. Sadly, for the Braves, Mustangs Jeremiah Longman did it again. He picked up the ball on the 25-yard line, went to his left, broke four tackles, and completed another 75-yard touchdown run. With the Extra Try unsuccessful, the score was now 42 to 20.
The Mustangs tried another onside kick, or the kicker totally muffed, but whatever happened the ball only travelled 4-yards and the Braves got it on the Mustangs’ 44-yard line. Finally, it was the Braves’ turn to take advantage of the Mustangs’ mistake. After a productive pass to Hudson Neigel and some tough running by both Ayden Sampson and Ashten Ganje, Ganje hit Number 41 Teysean Eagle Staff on a 29-yard flag-pass play for Ganje’s and the Braves’ fourth touchdown pass of the game. On the conversion try, Adam Berndt muscled the ball in to again get the Braves within striking distance – 42 to 28.
With the Braves solidifying their defense there was no more scoring in the third quarter. When the final period started, the Braves were in control of the ball, moving primarily on the arm of Ganje and the catching of Bowman. But on a first-and ten from the Mustang’s own 45-yard line, Ganje tried to pass another ball up the middle of the field, and unfortunately, Renzo Bull Horn intercepted it for a “pick-six”. He rambled 70-yards for a touchdown and with the conversion try no good the score once more ballooned to 48 to 28.
Trying to deliver a knockout blow to the home team, the Mustangs attempted yet another onside kick, but it was successfully recovered by Liam Veaux on the Braves’ 40-yard line. From there the Braves proved to be resourceful, primarily on the legs and arm of Ashten Ganje. He got the Braves all the way to the Mustangs’ 5-yard line. From there Adam Berndt, carrying a couple of Mustangs with him, scored the last touchdown for the Braves. Ganje, with the help of his linemen and Adam Berndt pushing him over the goal line made the score – and final score – 48 to 36.
The Braves had some great plays, but they also had too many mistakes. Nevertheless, this game must be so good for Coach Elwess to build from. More importantly, the game should give his team more than enough inspiration to look forward, which of course is priceless. As for a player of the game, on offense it should be equally shared by Ashten Ganje and Zander Bowman because their connection, on pass plays, is as dependable as a 7/11 on the corner of any big city street block. Defensively, Brock Ducheneaux was the man.