You now exactly what's coming, but you still can't stop it. Few things are more demoralizing in football, especially when your opponent is running it right up the middle.
That was the predicament Midland Valley faced in Friday's 20-17 loss to Wilson. The Mustangs were powerless to stop the Tigers after starting the second half with a 9-0 lead, and it meant the end of their season in the second round of the South Carolina Class AAA playoffs.
Wilson tailback Dane Hamrick rushed for 147 yards on 29 carries as the Tigers (8-4) pounded Midland Valley between the tackles. The Mustangs (7-5) took away Wilson's passing game in the first half, so the Tigers made a halftime adjustment by putting in two tight ends and ramming the ball down the Mustangs' throats.
"We put seven guys up front, and we still couldn't do anything to stop them," said Mustangs coach Rick Knight, whose team rallied from 20-9 late and reached Wilson's 40-yard line after an onside kick.
Needing a touchdown to win and a field goal to tie, the Mustangs got neither when a fourth-down run by quarterback Marcus Johnson fell a yard short at the 33-yard line with 19 seconds left.
"I just feel bad for our seniors," Knight said. "They put up a great effort. Wilson is a great football team, very athletic. There's a lot of college players on that team."
The most obvious was middle linebacker Justin Durant, who controlled the game by abusing the Mustangs when they dared to run his way. Midland Valley running back Dontrell Jones entered the game averaging 128 yards rushing per game but was stuffed for 25 on 16 carries.
Still, the Mustangs appeared to be in control at halftime after taking advantage of good field position and Wilson's sputtering offense for the 9-0 lead.
It didn't take long for the Tigers to turn things around. After a fumble by Jones gave Wilson the ball at Midland Valley's 27, the Tigers scored when Tyrell Solomon threw a fade over Jonathon Cox and into the arms of receiver Waleed Rushdan.
The extra point made the score 9-7, and things changed dramatically on the kickoff. Terrence Sapp hauled in the kick and cut across toward the right sideline, but he absorbed a knee-buckling hit by Byron McNeil that sent the ball into the air and onto the ground.
Kevin Robinson scooped it up and dashed 29 yards to give the Tigers their second touchdown in 14 seconds.
Wilson forced Midland Valley to punt on the next possession, then the Tigers mounted an 11-play, 73-yard drive that saw almost every play run between the tackles.
Wilson found its way to the end zone on another fade pass by Solomon to Rushdan. This one was for 15 yards, and this time it was over the outstretched arms of cornerback Tyler Maxwell.
Solomon was the only Tiger other than Hamrick to run the ball. He finished with 29 yards.
"The holes were just there," Hamrick said. "Anybody can run through holes like that. ... They were taking the pass away from us, so we knew we had to change some things up and run the ball."
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