LILBURN -- The Meadowcreek Mustangs celebrated their 25th anniversary Friday with an on-field celebration and presentation of the homecoming court.
However, that was the only thing that went as planned for the Mustangs on their home turf as Wheeler (1-2) skunked Meadowcreek (0-3) 26-0 to notch their first win of the season and keep the Mustangs winless for a 31st consecutive game.
As bad as the final numbers looked for the Mustangs, the night started off strong for the Meadowcreek defense. The Mustangs limited the Wildcats to 42 yards and 3 points in the first half.
The Wildcats also managed to hurt themselves as they were called for nine penalties in the first half for a total of 60 yards.
But the hurting Mustang offense failed to take advantage of good field position. Meadowcreek managed only 18 yards in the first half.
"Offense was the main thing for us," Mustang coach Deario Grimmage said. "Our defense got us the momentum, but our offense is what we rely on for the spark."
The offensive spark was nonexistent for the Mustangs. Sophomore quarterback Ridwan Issahaku could only play a handful of downs as he was trying to heal from injuries suffered over the last two weeks. In his place freshman Patrick Mills got the start and the brunt of the Wheeler defensive attack. Mills and Issahaku were sacked five times for a total loss of 36 yards. Four of those sacks came in the second half, when the game plan seemed to fall apart for the Mustangs.
"We didn't communicate and stick to our rules and assignments," Grimmage said. "You have young quarterbacks out there, and they get heat like that, they tend to focus on the heat instead of focusing on the play.
"What happened a couple times at the end of the game is they forced our quarterback's hand and kind of rattled him a little bit. He started to take things his own way and you can't do that."
Leading the charge for the resurgent Wildcats in the second half was junior running back Jamal Bryant. Bryant was limited to 24 yards on 16 carries in the first half but finished the game with 90 yards on 20 carries, including an 8-yard sweep for the Wildcats' first touchdown and a 51-yard scramble to put the Wildcats on top 17-0 to end the third quarter.
Bryant attributed the second half surge to coaching adjustments made in the lockerroom.
"Coach just got us all straightened out at halftime," Bryant said. "In the second half all the blocking was there for us."
Bolstering Bryant's performance was a solid aerial attack. Quarterback Elijah Staley finished the game 7 of 15 passing for a total of 90 yards. He also scrambled 2 yards for a fourth quarter touchdown, which, along with a safety, put Wheeler up for good with 9:56 left to play in the game.
The Mustangs' path to ending their winless drought doesn't get any easier next week as they host Peachtree Ridge, but Meadowcreek does expect Issahaku to be back in the lineup. However, Grimmage said his focus is not on Peachtree Ridge.
"The game plan against Peachtree is to get Meadowcreek right," Grimmage said.