Second-half smoked: Final two quarters create cushion in Prestonwood win
Prestonwood Christian Academy (5-0) scored on offense, defense and special teams en route to a 41-24 victory over Argyle Liberty Christian (3-2) Friday night at Lions Stadium.
The Lions used a dominant running game, led by sophomore quarterback Mickey Mitchell, to wear down the Liberty Christian defense. Mitchell ran for 235 yards on 26 carries and one touchdown. All total, Prestonwood ran for 392 yards.
"Our offensive line was battling a tough defensive line all game long," said Chris Cunningham, Prestonwood head coach. "I am so proud of the way Mickey played and how he stepped up as a quarterback and took the game over."
Mitchell's companion in the backfield, senior Grayson Warren, also had a strong game. The tailback toted the ball 27 times for 157 yards and one score.
"With our offense, we are going to keep running the ball until they show us they can stop it," Mitchell said. "Tonight, they really couldn't stop Grayson up the middle. People are so focused on him, when I pull the ball down the run is wide open."
It wasn't just the Prestonwood offense that shined Friday night. After allowing 24 points and 237 yards of offense in the opening 24 minutes, the Lions' defense stepped up and allowed only 35 yards in the second half.
"I told my guys that this would be the toughest team they have played this year," Cunningham said. "In the first half we both made mistakes and helped each other out, but in the second half we settled down and made some adjustments to shut them down."
With the defense playing well, the Prestonwood offense took the 28-24 halftime lead and added to it with two second-half scores. Mitchell ran the ball into the end zone from 58 yards out on the first play of the final quarter, showing a burst of speed that Cunningham jokingly told his quarterback after the game he didn't know he had.
The final score of the game came on a 16-yard run from Warren with just over four minutes left.
Early in the game it didn't appear Prestonwood would need late scores to seal the win. Senior linebacker Mike Mitchell ran untouched through the Warriors' kick coverage team for a 99-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead only 14 seconds into the game.
However, as they would for the entire first half, Liberty Christian answered back almost immediately on a Jon Aaron Howell 62-yard-run less than two minutes later.
The teams would score twice more before the end of the first quarter, with Mickey finding senior receiver Stephen Riegel from 12 yards out, and Liberty Christian kicker Mikael Sroka nailing a 42-yard field goal with apparent ease.
Leading by four, Prestonwood quickly put some distance between themselves and Liberty Christian in the second quarter on a 24-yard touchdown reception by senior tight end Christian Morgan. Mickey found the Florida State commit wide open down the seam and hit him in stride. After the game, Mickey estimated that the team practices that play at least 35 times each practice, so running it has become second nature.
With a 21-10 lead, Prestonwood's defense made its first big play of the game when junior safety Austin Tankersley picked off a Foster Ford pass and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown.
Not content to go into half with a 28-10 lead, Prestonwood kept the ball in the air rather than use its strong rushing attack. With a little more than four minutes left in the first half, Mickey threw an interception to the Warriors' Christian Burks. On the very next play, Ford kept the ball around the right end and scored a 55-yard touchdown.
On Prestonwood's next offensive snap, the Warrior defense stepped up big again when Travis Ball once again picked Mickey. Liberty Christian needed only four plays to score their third touchdown of the game, this one coming on a 2-yard run by Howell to make the score 28-24 at the half.
In addition to his running, Mickey completed 11-of-17 passes for 94 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He spread the ball around to six different receivers, with Warren leading in receptions, with three, and Morgan leading in yards, with 31 on two catches.
Liberty Christian was led by Howell, who finished the game with 111 yards, 108 of which came in the first half.
Prestonwood returns to action Friday when they travel to Bishop Dunne to play the Falcons. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.