Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Mark Hebert

Mustangs cruise to postseason, 7-1


October 30, 2019

Mark Hebert

Mustangs Cash Salsbery (23) and Pierce Mortenson (52) block for Tanner Smith in the Mustang's victory over Cut Bank last Friday in Malta.

The Mustangs secured a second place in Northern B and assured themselves a first-round playoff game at home this weekend following a 28-6 victory over the Cut Bank Wolves in Malta last Friday night.

Ahead of Friday night's football contest, Mustang Football seniors Callan Mears, Shaun Ball, Tanner Smith, Marcus Woods, and Franky Werk were joined by their families to be honored at their final regular-season football games wearing Malta Blue, as were Malta Cheer Squad seniors Jordan Markuson and Camryn Messerly.

It took nearly 16 minutes for either team to remove the goose eggs from the scoreboard in the contest and Malta was the first to strike pay dirt. The Mustang's first score of the game came following the Malta defense forcing a fumble which was recovered by Kanyon Stiles. Malta's junior Quarterback Kooper Oxarart hooked up with sophomore Rex Williamson on a nine-yard completion on first down and followed it with a dramatic quarterback keeper on second down to plunge into the endzone.

"That was a sweet play," Oxarart said. "I got some blocks, then dove over a kid and did a flip. It was awesome! It was amazing."

The score gave the Mustangs a 6-0 lead with 7:7 to play in the first half. Malta wouldn't take as long to score their next touchdown of the night after the Mustang defense – which was hard-hitting and disciplined most of the evening – forced a four-and-out. The Mustangs slapped together a six-play, 57-yard scoring drive capped by a 27-yard touchdown strike from Oxarart to Williamson across the middle of the field to give Malta a 12-0 lead with 3:17 to play in the second quarter.

The Mustangs got the ball back for the final time in the second half with just 55 seconds on the clock and made their way down the field to force a second down and 10 on the Wolves 33-yard line with just 4-seconds left to play. Oxarart dropped back, threw a tight spiral down the right side of the field and hit junior wideout Jeramiah Benson in stride as he streaked down the field with a Cut Bank defender draped on his back. Benson hustled down before being tackled inside the one-yard line, short of the end zone. The exciting play left the score at 12-0 Malta at the half.

In a strange occurrence, which still isn't clear to the PCN, Malta was forced to kick-off to start the second half even though the Mustangs deferred to kick off the ball after winning the coin toss at the game's outset, meaning Cut Bank should have kicked off to start the second half.

The Malta defense, however, didn't take long to take matters into their own hands and after limiting Cut Bank runners to zero yards on two attempts forced a fumble and recovered it near the Wolves' 40-yard line. Malta would have a turnover of their own two plays later and Cut Bank capitalized, scoring their only points of the game on a tricky 48-yard wide receiver reserve (one of only two big plays the Mustang's D would give up on the evening.)

"We got a little soft on defense sometimes but I feel like we pounded hard tonight and it was a good game," Werk said after the game.

"We need to be more focused on defense," Oxarart added.

The Wolves touchdown made the score 12-6 with 6:49 to play in the third quarter.

From that point on, the Mustangs offensive line bullied the Wolves defenders and the Mustang ground attack took over the contest.

The Mustangs marched down the field with runs by sophomore fullback Cash Salsbery and Williamson, before Smith took a handoff, broke a would-be tackler and scooted 43-yards to start the fourth quarter.

"Well, the play was designed to run left, and the line blew up a hole for me, everyone got their blocks, and everything just parted like the Red Sea," Smith said of the play. "Straight up the field."

Smith was given the ball on another handoff on the two-point conversion attempt and found the endzone again to give Malta a 20-6 lead with just over 11-minutes to play in the contest.

The next time the Malta offense touched the field, they stayed on it for the next seven minutes and got solid runs from Stiles, Oxarart, Salsbery, before Williamson took a handoff through the line, spun out of the way of a would-be Wolves tackle, and scampered 27 yards for the touchdown. Smith added a successful two-point conversion plunge for the 28-6 lead and the team's seventh victory of the year, finishing the regular season with a 7-1 record.

Next up for the Mustangs is the first round of the 2019 Class B Playoff where they will face the Jefferson Panthers from Boulder, Mont., who had a record of 5-3 in the 2019 season, 4-2 in the Southern Conference, which was won by first place Manhattan who finished the season 8-0.

Werk said after Friday's game that he wasn't sure who the Mustangs would play but added that he and his teammates would be ready to play.

"On offense, we need to work on not turning the ball over," Werk said. "But tonight, I think we played a pretty good game. We might not come out and be perfect on defense, but we are sure going to try."

Advanced Playoff Football Game Tickets will be available from 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, October 30, 2019, until noon, Friday, November 1, 2019, at the Malta High School Office. Adult tickets are $7, and students are $6. No activity passes will be honored for playoff football. The game against Jefferson will be this Saturday starting at 1 p.m. at Mustang Field.

When asked, separately, if they had anything else to say after answering post-game questions on Friday night, Tanner Smith, Cody Oxarart, and Franky Werk all said the same thing:

"Go Mustangs!"


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