Evergreen Park had some lapses in Saturday’s Class 4A playoff opener against Richmond-Burton, particularly in the secondary and on special teams.
But the Mustangs also had Keyshawn Carpenter and Jacquet McClendon, and that was more than enough to carry them to a 33-17 victory.
Carpenter rushed 28 times for 260 yards and one score, and caught an eight-yard shovel pass for another from quarter back Sean Ryan (11-for-17, 235 yards, four touchdowns).
McClendon, meanwhile, caught six passes for 149 yards and touchdowns of 69 and 51 yards as the Mustangs improved to 10-0.
It could have been easier than it was. Evergreen committed four holding penalties that prevented Carpenter from reaching 300 yards rushing and more than likely a blowout.
The biggest glitch was a blocked punt that Rockets defender Nick Bianchini scooped up at the 2-yard line and ran in for the score that got them within 25-17 late in the third quarter.
Evergreen Park responded quickly, however, when Don Oresky returned a squib kickoff to the Rockets' 40, and Carpenter ran four straight times, the last for an 11-yard touchdown.
Carpenter churned yards all day behind an offensive line of Nick Knieps, Brennan Quick, Joe Piet, Dave Ziebarth and Zach Rogers.
“With the O-line getting a great push, getting me to the open field, it was pretty much easy for me to work magic,” Carpenter said.
The Mustangs led all the way after Ryan and Eric Gurrister connected for a 23-yard touchdown and Matt Schulte booted the PAT with 8:22 remaining in the first quarter.
Richmond-Burton (5-5) got within 7-3 on a 23-yard field goal by Sergio Hernandez. The Mustangs, though, went into the half up 13-3 thanks to a 69-yard touchdown play, Ryan to McClendon, with McClendon shaking off a tackler at midfield and dodging defenders to get to the end zone.
“When I catch the ball in the open field, I want to make my quarterback look good by getting yards after the catch,” said a smiling McClendon. “I don’t like to go down to the turf.”
McClendon would make the same moves on a 51-yard touchdown reception early in the third period that made it 19-3, but R-B quarterback Dan Rygiel conjured up a highlight-reel play of his own, catching Luke Brinkmann in full stride for a 61-yard touchdown pass.
Evergreen looked ready to roll after Ryan found Carpenter with a shovel pass for an eight-yard score to make it 25-9, but the blocked punt and subsequent Rockets touchdown made the Mustangs have to keep playing.
“We knew coming in that we were going to have to score a lot of points to win this game,” Carpenter said. “They’re a hard-nosed team and they’re in the playoffs for a reason.
“The momentum swings were huge. It was a total team effort.”