When the McDonald County Mustangs jogged off the field at halftime, they were staring in the face of a winless regular season. When they jogged back onto the field shortly before the start of the third quarter, they had the look of determination.

Despite a slow start, the Mustangs came to life in the second half and went on to escape Springfield Central in a nail-biter for their first win of the season, 20-13.

“I think it was a great team effort,” Mustangs coach Chris Gwartney said. “It was a hard fought game — very physical. They’re a very physical team.”

The Mustangs saved their best for last, apparently, as Gwartney’s offensive line put in its best day of work. They dominated, at times, at the point of attack.

While the Mustangs played well on both sides of the ball, the ability of their offense to sustain drives and milk the clock made all the difference. After trailing 7-6 at the half, the Mustangs came out and scored touchdowns on each of their first two drives in the third quarter to take a 20-7 lead. Central would eventually add a touchdown to pull within seven points.

But that scoring drive would be the last time the Bulldogs would have their hands on the ball, as McDonald County retained possession with 7:49 on the clock and didn’t give it back.
Jake Wood and Evan Acuff both scored touchdowns for the Mustangs in the game, as the team scored once on the ground and twice through the air. Detailed stats weren’t available as of press time.

The win was a big one for the Mustangs.

“I was real proud of the kids,” Gwartney said. “I think it was probably the best game for our offensive line. They did a great job. Springfield is massive. They’re very big up front. We really played well defensively, too. It was a really big win right before we go into the district playoffs. To get that first win, get it at home and get it on senior night, it was really big.”

The Mustangs (1-8) will travel to Webb City at 7 p.m. Thursday to begin district play.