Montabella can guarantee postseason spot with win

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 9:53 pm on Friday, October 07, 2011

BLANCHARD - The Montabella Mustangs are quietly putting together a special season on the football field.
With a couple of two-point victories and an overtime victory over rival Vestaburg last week, the Mustangs sit with a 5-1 overall record – just one win away from clinching their third playoff appearance in four years.

Montabella’s lone loss came in week four to state-ranked Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.

“We definitely are excited to be 5-1,” Montabella coach David Clay said. “We’ve had a really good week of practice this week and our focus is on getting that sixth win and getting into the state playoffs.”

Up next for the Mustangs tonight on homecoming night are the Onekama Portagers from the Mid-State Activities Conference North Division.

Onekama (3-3) has won three straight games and is coming off a 48-8 victory over Big Rapids Crossroads Academy last week.

“They are hungry to fight and stay alive to earn a playoff spot,” Clay said. “We know they have a pretty aggressive offensive and defensive line. Strategy-wise, they are an old-fashioned split-back veer team. They won’t be flashy, but are very good at doing the little things right.”

The Mustangs have won nine of their last 10 games, including the final four games last season. Clay believes that did a lot for his team heading into this season.

“I think it helped tremendously. We had a lot of injuries and a lot of really young guys,” Clay said. “It took those guys some time to get used to the varsity level. Once it clicked we were able to roll out four in a row and it carried over to this year. We still have a lot of youth, but they continue to get more experience.”

All this success is happening with just 15 or 16 players on the roster, which includes multiple freshman and sophomore starters.

“I kind of joke, but the reality is without the freshman and sophomores we wouldn’t even have a varsity,” Clay said. “It’s been a great mix. The seniors have been a great influence on those younger players in teaching them how to win and keeping things together. Everything is kind of gelling for us right now.”

Clay is hoping the success of his team helps to bring out more players in the future.

“Anytime you see a group of guys having fun and being successful you want to be a part of that,” Clay said. “Our players, we really work hard on making sure they conduct themselves professionally on and off the field. We expect them to be sharp at the game of football and in the classroom.

“Success naturally draws people toward that, and hopefully it does not. Not only does it draw people to the team, but it brings interest to community members and others outside the program,” he added.

The Mustangs have a favorable schedule with games against Crossroads Academy (0-6) and St. Louis (2-4) following tonight’s game. Should the Mustangs win their final three games they would finish with a school record eight wins.

Only twice has the program reached seven wins. One of those winning years was Clay’s first year as head coach in 2008.

At the beginning of the year, expectations were to qualify for the postseason.

“Coming into the season, we knew we were going to have a pretty good football team,” Clay said. “We also knew we had a pretty tough schedule. We are definitely ahead of where the coaches thought we would be this season.”

One more win and the Montabella Mustangs can set new expectations and goals.

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