By Chris Yow
FAYETTEVILLE — Untimely mistakes, early and often, plagued Mt. Pleasant on Friday night, helping pave the way to a 56-20 loss at Region 5-1A foe Fayetteville.
The Mount (0-3; 0-2 Region 5-1A) was without six players according to coach Bronson Bradley, and big-time two-way contributor Jeffery Williams went out with an injury early in the game. The Tigers did, however, find a bright spot with freshman athlete Keegan Cooper, who ran for 131 yards on four carries. He scored on runs of 57 and 63 yards, while adding a 98-yard kickoff return to his resume to cap the scoring.
“He played the whole game; made a lot of tackles, too,” Bradley said. “I saw a big bright spot tonight in that young man.”
From the opening kickoff, the host Tigers (3-1, 2-0 Region 5-1A) dominated the line of scrimmage, running seven straight plays for 84 yards, capped by a 36-yard scamper from Graham Pace. Pace’s touchdown run came on 3rd-and-11 following two consecutive negative plays stuffed by Mt. Pleasant.
Pace paced the hosts on that drive and in the half, rushing for 84 first-half yards and three touchdowns. He finished with a game-high 137 yards.
On the ensuing drive, the visitors drove to the Fayetteville 32-yard-line, but a low snap caused a loss on second down, and coupled with a false start penalty on 4th-and-12, Mt. Pleasant could not capitalize on the momentum.
“We are just making mistakes we can’t make right now,” Bradley said. “We are too young and too inexperienced. We were driving the ball well early, had a good game plan, and we were running well. But those negative plays hurt us and with young kids it can be a momentum breaker.”
The trend continued, as Mt. Pleasant forced a three-and-out on the next Fayetteville drive, but the Tigers’ punt hit the ground and bounced, ending with a 52-yard boot.
After a Mt. Pleasant punt, Fayetteville put together a methodical 11-play, 69-yard drive choosing to run on every play, and Pace finished the drive with a 5-yard run to extend the lead to 16-0.
Mt. Pleasant then put together a positive drive, including a 4th-and-2 conversion from Ethan Beasley at the Fayetteville 37-yard-line, but another low snap put the Tigers behind the chains and three incomplete passes later, the ball turned over on downs.
Fayetteville capitalized, driving 58 yards and ending with an Isaiah Thompson Randy Moss-like touchdown grab in the back of the end zone to make it 22-0 with 18 seconds remaining in the half.
Rather than electing to take the deficit to the locker room, Bradley opted to throw a pass, which was intercepted and returned inside the 5, and Pace punched it in as time expired to give Fayetteville a 30-0 lead going to the break.
“It was open, and in the huddle I told him to make sure not to throw it to the middle linebacker,” Bradley said. “They just had some miscommunication on the play, and it hurt us. I’d like to have that call back for sure.”
Cooper opened the second half with his 57-yard touchdown scamper on the first play from scrimmage to put his team on the board. Mt. Pleasant ran just seven plays from scrimmage in the second half, with two of them going for touchdowns by Cooper. A pick-6 and fumble ended the Tigers’ other two second-half drives.
“We just have to get back to Mt. Pleasant and get back to the drawing board,” Bradley said. “There is never an easy night in this region, and we have to keep fighting. At least we are getting the opportunity to play the game, and that’s what matters most right now.”
Fayetteville 56, Mt. Pleasant 20
MP 0 0 6 13 20
F 8 22 20 6 56
F — Graham Pace 36 run (9:08), Zayshon Pullen pass from Sam Holdmeyer
F — Pace 5 run (6:58), Pace run
F — Isaiah Thomison 14 pass from Holdmeyer (0:18), kick failed
F — Pace 3 run (0:00), Pace run
MP — Keevan Cooper 57 run (11:42), run failed
F — Pullen 9 pass from Holdmeyer (8:46), kick failed
F — KJ Jackson 2 run (5:41), Thomison kick
F — Jackson 10 interception return (4:10), Thomison kick
MP — Cooper 63 run (1:14), Jackson Collier kick
F — Jaterious Derrick 86 run (8:12), kick failed
MP — Cooper 98 kick return (5:40), Collier kick
First downs 8 16
Rushes-yards 23-181 35-373
Passing yards 32 61
Comps-Atts-Ints 3-8-2 8-14-0
Penalties-yards 3-15 9-82
Fumbles-lost 4-1 0-0
Mt. Pleasant — Keevan Cooper 4-131, Zavier Davidson 6-19, Ladontay Patton 6-19, Tevarius Strayhorn 5-10, Ethan Beasley 2-2
Fayetteville — Graham Pace 10-137, KJ Jackson 10-99, Jaterious Derrick 2-93, Aljarea Johnson 6-39, Cam Sheridan 1-5, Xavier Gray 4-5, Ryan Thomas 1-1, Sam Holdmeyer 1-(-6)
Mt. Pleasant — Tevarius Strayhorn 3-8-0-2 32
Fayetteville — Sam Holdmeyer 8-13-2-0 61, Ryan Thomas 0-1-0-0
Mt. Pleasant — Tyler Berry 1-16, Keevan Cooper 1-6,
Ladontay Patton 1-10
Fayetteville — Zayshon Pullen 3-22, Isaiah Thomason 2-22, Jaterious Derrick 1-11, Tae Fox 2-7