NORCROSS - Players, coaches and fans at Meadowcreek finally experienced something Friday they hadn't had a chance to enjoy in almost five years - a winning varsity football game.
Sean Frezell completed 34 of 47 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns, while the Meadowcreek defense shut down Duluth's running attack in the second half to help the Mustangs break the team's county-record 43-game losing streak with a 24-14 victory.
"The kids deserve it," a tearful Meadowcreek coach Terrone Owens said. "They've waited a long time for this."
To be precise, the Meadowcreek program waited four years, 308 days and 43 games for Friday's win. The outpouring of emotion among the players, coaches, students and home fans who poured onto the field at Meadowcreek Community Stadium after the game was very evident.
"It's just great. That's all I can say," Frezell said. "We were bound to get one. Everybody's crying and everything. For people like (fellow senior and offensive lineman Phillip) Pickens who've been around longer than I have - all four years - it's good to finally get them one."
It took a lot of work for the Mustangs (1-1) to get themselves one, and while Frezell and the offense did their share, it was an adjustment by the Meadowcreek defense in the second half that finally subdued the Duluth (0-2) running game that made the difference.
After the Wildcats rolled up 159 yards on the ground and 11 first downs in the opening 24 minutes, Owens and his defensive staff brought as many as 10 men into the box to force Duluth to the air.
The result was that the Mustangs held Duluth to just 29 rushing yards and six first downs in the second half.
"We went inside (the locker room) at halftime and made our adjustments," Owens said. "Our kids followed through on what we told them, came out and played four quarters of football, and we're celebrating, baby."
And even when Duluth's infantry - led by Quinton Cobb, who led all rushers on the night with 105 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries - was eating up chunks of yardage in the first half, Frezell and the Meadowcreek Air Force kept pace.
The senior quarterback dissected the Wildcats' secondary for 20 completions, 213 yards and two scores in the first half, and even after one of his few mistakes - an interception by Matthew Gagich with 1:07 left in the half - the Mustangs were even at 14-14 heading into intermission.
"We just wanted to close it out (in the second half)," Frezell said. "We came out of the locker room, and it was (basically) 0-0. We just had to finish."
Frezell did just that, capping an 11-play, 91-yard drive on his team's first possession of the third quarter with a 1-yard sneak, putting the Mustangs up for good at 21-14 with 4:02 left in the period.
Another long drive in the fourth quarter - this time, an 11-play, 61-yard march - ended with Mirzet Mehic's 25-yard field goal that pushed the lead to 24-14 with 4:26 remaining.
Duluth got the ball back twice more, but the Wildcats could muster just two more first downs, which made them Meadowcreek's first victim since a 33-30 win over Cross Keys on Halloween Night of 2003.
"We've got a lot to learn and a long time to learn it," a philosophical Duluth coach Gary McDonald said. "The kids didn't quit and played hard the whole way.
"(Meadowcreek) deserved to win, and I'm glad (they) got the monkey off their back. I just wish it hadn't been (us)."
Frezell's favorite targets on the night were Cory Huck, who hauled in 12 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, and Dedric Shipman, who had eight receptions for 96 yards and a score.