After a strong first half, the Pillow Academy defense had a letdown. But the offense was there to pick up the slack.
The Mustangs entered the playoffs with one of the top passing attacks in the state, but they showed a different look Friday night in a 46-31 victory over Hartfield in the quarterfinals of the MAIS Class 5A state playoffs.
“We will take a win this time of year any way we can get it, so we take this one and move on,” PA coach Tripp McCarty said. “Survive and advance is the name of the game.”
Behind a dominant outing from the big boys up front, the Mustangs turned to the ground game a little more in this one — churning out more than 250 yards.
Jack Reichle, Christian Belk and Alex Lindsey spearheaded the rushing attack. All three players found the end zone at least once. Reichle ran for a 35-yard scoring scamper to get PA on the scoreboard first and then had an 11-yard scoring pass from senior quarterback Shane Houston Stephens.
In the first half, the Mustangs held the Hawks to three points and just 86 yards on 24 plays. PA rolled up 270 total yards in the first half.
Belk finished with a team-high 123 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Reichle added 122 yards and a pair of rushing TDs on 11 attempts.
Stephens also had a 13-yard touchdown toss to Jaden Simcox and finished with 168 yards.
Lawes McCool and Ethan Clark led the PA defense. McCool wound up with a team-high eight tackles.
The Mustangs (9-2) earn a rematch with undefeated Heritage Academy next in the state semifinals. The Patriots, who beat PA 26-13 late in September, defeated Leake Academy 35-0 to move to 12-0.
“We’ve kind of been talking about this shot since the first outing. We didn’t think we played our best, and we’re excited about seeing what we can do with it,” McCarty said of the Heritage rematch.