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July 4, 2020

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Mustangs clinch NWC title, playoff bid with win over rival Bulldogs

AE is the only NWC team to male the post-season

By Cort Reynolds
ADA - Visiting Allen East reeled off 30 first period points and defeated injury-riddled Ada 50-8 in their annual backyard rivalry game to close the Northwest Conference and regular season on a cold Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.

The Mustangs clinched a three-way share of the NWC title with the victory, as well as their first playoff berth since 2006.

With the defeat, the purple and gold finished 2-8 overall and 1-6 in NWC play for the second straight year. The Mustangs improved to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the NWC with the lopsided win to capture their first league crown since 1995.

Spencerville, AE and Columbus Grove shared the league title at 6-1. Grove and the Bearcats also shared a three-way NWC crown last year with Crestview.

"It was a tough season (due to injuries) but we saw a lot of growth from a lot of young men," said Ada second-year head coach Shawn Christopher. "We started with a roster of 38 eligible players, and almost everyone got significant, quality playing time.

"I am proud of the freshmen who played, and especially of Brandon Hull and Bryce Paul," he continued. "The seniors had a good four-year run with a lot of experiences and changes. We will miss those seniors, and I will always have a special place for them." 

AE scored on its first possession to take a lead they never relinquished. The Mustangs fielded an on-sides kickoff to start the game, then drove 53 yards in seven plays to score.

Four runs and a pass to Logan McCluer advanced AE to the Ada 14. Bryce Belcher completed a screen left to Cole Fletcher, who slipped a tackler and scampered 14 yards to paydirt at the 8:45 mark.

A two-point pass from Fletcher to Belcher made it 8-0.

Ada took over at its own 33 and Brandon Hull completed a pass to sophomore Cayden Murphy for 16 yards. A 13-yard aerial to Zac Swaney advanced the Bulldogs to the AE 38.

An eight-yard toss to Swaney was followed by a sack and a tackle for loss by Evan Shafer. Ada punted deep into Mustang territory, but elusive Bradden Crumrine weaved his way for a 54-yard return to the Bulldog 44.

Fletcher ran for 11 yards, and two plays later Crumrine caught a pass spun off a tackler and scurried 30 yards to the end zone with 5:33 to go in the first period. 

Crumrine's point after kick extended the lead to 15-0.

The Bulldogs took possession at their own 19 but could not make a first down. A short punt rolled dead at their own 43.

Crumrine snared a nine-yard aerial to start the next AE drive. Belcher then burst 25 yards up the middle to the Ada nine. Garrett Neth then rumbled nine yards up the gut to score and cap the three-play drive.

Crumrine's second point after kick made it 22-0 with 3:08 still left in the first period.

A third down interception near the Ada sideline by Fletcher gave AE good field position on the Bulldog 47. Neth caught a screen, broke a tackle near the left sideline and rambled 41 yards to the Bulldog six.

On first and goal Belcher connected with Crumrine for a six-yard TD aerial with 1:27 to go. 

Belcher's two-point conversion pass to Fletcher extended the margin to 30-0.

A 14-yard screen left to Murphy near midfield ignited the next Ada drive. Daniel Mattson snagged a 15-yard reception over the middle to the AE 21 starting the second stanza.

Hull scrambled and found Swaney for a 12-yard gain. But a dropped pass in the end zone and a penalty moved Ada back to fourth and goal from the 28.

Ada turned it over on downs when Hull's scrambling aerial fell incomplete.

AE took over at its own 43 after another flag. McCluer then sprinted behind the Ada defense and hauled in a long pass from Fletcher before running the final 25 yards untouched to the end zone on a 57-yard catch and carry TD with 10:12 left before halftime.

Crumrine's PAT boot put AE on top, 37-0.

Ada took over at their own 33 and put together a good drive into AE territory. A personal foul penalty and a 15-yard pass to Swaney brought up fourth and three. 

Mattson hauled in a 31-yard reception to the Mustang 13. Swaney caught a screen left, then reversed field for good yardage but the play was negated by a penalty. 

On fourth and long Hull scrambled for nine yards but came up short at the AE 8 as another good scoring opportunity went awry.

Neth ran 14 yards and McCluer caught a pass for 19 more yards. However, the running clock expired at intermission before AE could advance past midfield.

AE added to its lead when Fletcher pun off a defender and ran left for 24 yards to cross the goal line with 5:06 left in the third quarter. Another Crumrine PAT kick made it 44-0.

Ada got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter when Hull muscled his way to paydirt on a gritty two-yard run. The two-point conversion pass from Hull to Swaney was successful, cutting the deficit to 44-8.

The Mustangs tallied the final TD when Wyatt Paxson scored on a 15-yard scoring scamper around the left end with 2:13 remaining. A two-point run came up shor to keep the final margin at 50-8.

The versatile Hull surpassed the 2,000-yard mark in passing (2,262) and also finished with just over 1,000 rushing yards on the season (1,006).

"When you throw for over 2,000 yards and run for over 1,000 you deserve some honors," said Christopher. "I hope Brandon gets the recognition he deserves in voting in the league and district."

    1    2    3    4    F
Ada    0    0    0    8    8
AE    30    7    7    6    50

Notes and stats
AE compiled 17 first downs, while Ada moved the chains 14 times.

The Mustangs rolled up 383 total yards on 38 plays for a 10.1 average. Ada netted 234 yards on 59 plays (4.0 avg.).

AE rushed 17 times for 164 yards, a 9.6 yard average per run. The Bulldogs rushed 24 times for 55 yards (2.3).

Hull completed 18 of 34 of passes for 179 yards with one interception. Ty Miller was 0-1 passing. 

Hull also rushed 12 times for 23 yards and one TD. Gutty freshman Colby Curtis netted 35 yards on nine rushes to pace Ada. Senior Holden Purdy added seven yards on two runs.

Neth led AE with 45 yards on six rushes with one TD. Paxson netted 44 yards and one score on five runs. Fletcher ran three times for 41 yards and a TD, and Belcher added 30 yards on two runs.

Belcher efficiently completed 10 of 17 passes for 149 yards and three TDs. Fletcher was 1-1 for 57 yards and a TD. Keaton Miller also connected on two of three passes for 13 yards. In all, AE completed 13 of 21 aerials for 219 yards and four scores.

McCluer caught four passes for 97 yards and one TD to pace the Mustang receiving corps. Crumrine snared three aerials for 45 yards and a pair of TDs. Neth caught one pass for 41 yards, while Fletcher added three catches for 23 yards.

The feisty Swaney pulled in a game-high 10 receptions for 92 yards. Mattson hauled in three passes for 55 yards, and Murphy caught three aerials for 31 yards. 

The Bulldogs committed one turnover while the Mustangs made no miscues. Ada possessed the ball for 36:22 to just 11:31 by AE. 

The Bulldogs were 6-17 on third down and 2-6 on fourth down. AE was 5-7 on third down, and 1-1 on fourth down. The Mustangs were flagged twice for 25 yards, while Ada was penalized seven times for 50 yards.

Ada dressed only 21 players vs. AE due to major injury issues. Season-ending injuries to senior receiver Phil Coulson (shoulders), senior running back/linebacker Landon Blankenship (knee), senior lineman Logan Conrad, freshman wideout Will McBride (knee) and sophomore tailback Keagan Hull (collarbone) were especially crippling. 

The Bulldogs were outscored by their opposition 537-290 this season, a 53.7 to 29.0 points per game average margin. In seven NWC games, Ada averaged 30.3 ppg and allowed 63.7 ppg.

AE has now beaten the Bulldogs two years in a row after losing to the purple and gold 15 consecutive times from 2003-17.

Ada finished 0-5 at War Memorial Stadium. The Bulldogs finished the year on a five-game losing skid.

AE ended up seventh in the Div. VI, Region 23 rankings to make the playoffs. The Mustangs will play at second-ranked Liberty Center (9-1) in the first round next weekend. AE is the only NWC team to male the post-season.