MATTHEWS – Butler stepped into the Southwestern 4A Conference championship driver’s seat in impressive fashion on Oct. 5.
The Bulldogs forced five turnovers and the offense clicked in the second half as Butler defeated previously unbeaten Myers Park 39-22.
Butler trailed 8-7 at halftime, but the Bulldogs scored on their first two possessions of the second half for a 19-8 lead. Myers Park twice cut the Bulldogs’ margin to three — 19-16 and 25-22 — in the third quarter, but Butler put the game away with two sustained scoring drives in the fourth quarter to win by 17.
Butler dominated the time of possession (31:49 to 15:37) and Bulldog coach Brian Hales said that was key to the victory.
“We told our team that they needed to play four quarters and they responded,” Hales said.
Butler rushed for 165 yards in the second half alone, and running back Jamal Worthy picked up 75 of his 96 yards after halftime. Quasean Holmes added 79 yards on 16 carries while Keyon Lesane rushed six times for 34 yards. Holmes had 69 yards rushing and one score in the second half while Lesane rushed four times for 21 yards and a touchdown after halftime. Worthy also had a second-half touchdown run for the Bulldogs.
Butler quarterback Christian Peters was 15-of-26 passing for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Seven different Butler players caught at least one pass. Josh Barnette led the way with four catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
“In the second half, we decided to get behind the big boys and get behind the O-line,” Hales said. “Jamal, Quasean, Keyon all did an outstanding job.”
Butler intercepted Myers Park quarterback Drake Maye three times – Tyran Jones, Lesane and Donovan Law each had a pick – in the first half and the Bulldogs also recovered two Mustang fumbles.
Trey Bly returned a Butler kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown that gave the Mustangs an early 8-7 lead, but Myers Park’s offense
managed just two touchdowns despite averaging 50 points per game coming into the contest.
“It started with the defensive line and we kept pressure on them all night long,” Hales said. “Coaches did a good job of mixing it up. (We) played some zone and sent some blitzes after them. The DBs, gosh, to defend that corps of receivers and hold them to two scores, they did an incredible job. The defense was incredibly opportunistic and the kids jumped on it and took advantage of every opportunity.”
Law now has three interceptions on the year and said the defense stepped up against a potent Myers Park offense.
“Three picks was huge,” Law said. “Turnovers decide games and the defense made plays. Everybody was against us, so this is a huge win for us.”
Butler scored a pair of second half touchdowns off the two Myers Park fumbles, and the Bulldogs needed just two offensive plays to do it. After taking a 13-8 lead, Myers Park attempted a fake punt on 4th-and-23 from near midfield, but a fumble on the play that was recovered by the Bulldogs resulted in a 19-yard loss that set the Bulldogs up at the Myers Park 25. A holding call pushed the Bulldogs back to the 35, but Peters hit Barnette for a 35-yard touchdown and a 19-8 lead.
With a 19-16 lead, Butler senior Brandon Masone recovered an errant Myers Park snap at the Mustangs’ 16 with 3:02 left in the third quarter. A play later, Worthy was in the end zone for a 25-16 lead.
“We caught a break there,” Hales said of stopping the fake punt. “That’s the thing, though. A week ago, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, we may not have recovered that. This group, being in tight games and growing up, they know that the big play of the game could happen on any play.”
Maye finished 18-of-32 passing for 301 yards and one score. Muhsin Muhammad had eight catches for 178 yards and one score. Maye hit Muhammad for 50 yards to set up an eight-yard scoring run by Andre Francois that cut the Butler lead to 19-16. Maye then went back to Muhammad for a 48-yard touchdown that cut the Bulldogs lead to 25-22 with 2:04 left in the third quarter.
But the Bulldogs put together scoring drives of 71 and 44 yards to pull away. The Bulldogs’ final score was setup after Butler stopped Maye for a two-yard gain on 4th-and-3 at the Mustangs’ 42.
Butler will look to extend its winning streak to five games when Independence (4-3, 1-2) visits Oct. 12. Butler also has road games left at Hickory Ridge (4-3, 2-1) and at Garinger (2-5, 1-2) before closing out the regular season at home against East Meck (1-6, 0-3) on Nov. 2.
Myers Park travels to Hickory Ridge on Oct. 12 and the Mustangs also have games remaining with East Meck at home, at Porter Ridge and at home against Independence on Nov. 2.