PROSPER, Texas -- Out-hit and out-played in the early going, Pleasant Grove dug out of a 20-7 hole and rallied to a 45-26 win over Midland Christian Academy Saturday in Children's Health Stadium in Prosper.
It all ended well. The No. 3 Hawks improved to 3-0 but not until MCA (0-2), a private school half PG's size, delivered a lesson on the importance of focus, precision, effort and avoiding over-confidence.
"We had a good game plan," said Mustang quarterback Colten Newsom, who ran for 122 yards and passed for 142 more to lead an offense that controlled the ball for an eternity. Midland Christian committed no turnovers and punted but three times.
"Pleasant Grove is a very good team," Newsom said. "I was able to misdirect them with my eyes, getting them out of position." PG helped the Mustangs along, committing 10 penalties for 108 yards. Most were costly.
In the end, PG senior quarterback Ahkhari Johnson again put his team on his shoulders and carried it to victory. He racked up 180 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries and threw touchdown passes of 35 yards to Jackson Gibson and 9 yards to Landon West.
Senior Jaylon Boardley had a big game on both sides of the ball, including exploding through a tackle on a fourth-and-one play for a 70-yard TD in the first half, and taking a pass away from a defender for a 41-yard gain to set up a fourth-quarter score.
What woke up the Hawks?
"It was what coach told us at halftime," Boardley said. "He said a lot, but basically he said we needed to play harder."
Other players and coaches indicated that Coach Josh Gibson's halftime oration was basically a reprise of the lesson that to whom much is given, much is expected.
"I told our kids that we have some of the best young men in the world to coach. They are an awesome group, but we are reaping what we sow when it comes to the football part," he said. "We are not preparing the way we should.
"It was no surprise to me that we started the way we did. We didn't practice well yesterday in our walkthrough. We make too many mistakes to dominate the way we want."
Pleasant Grove came in heavily favored, and in the first two minutes it looked like the oddsmakers had it right. Back-to-back penalties on the kickoff by Midland Christian put the Hawks in business at midfield. Four plays later, Kaden McFadden burst through a big hole up the middle for a 32-yard score. Caleb Jones' point-after made it 7-0 with just gone in the contest.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the blowout. Newsom promptly marched his team 75 yards downfield. A 38-yard completion across the middle to Christian Camacho set up an 11-yard scoring run up the middle and the game was tied midway through the first quarter.
The Mustangs would dominate the next 12 minutes of play. They put together a 14-play, 64-yard drive to take a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. After forcing a three-and-out and partially blocking a punt, they took advantage of the short field to make it 20-7.
The wheels seemed to come completely off for PG when the ensuing kickoff was lost on a fumble at the Hawk 28. Rather than fold, however, the Hawks bowed up. They outscored Midland Christian 38-6 the rest of the way.
The defense forced a 38-yard field goal that went wide and short. Three cracks into the line by Nick Bells left the Hawks facing fourth-and-one at their own 30. Gibson rolled the die and Boardley responded, breaking two tackles before sprinting away from the defense to make it a 20-14 game with 5:49 left in the half. It was PG's first first down since McFadden's TD run in the opening moments.
The Black Flag defense forced the Mustangs' first punt of the contest. Johnson quickly put together a seven-play, 66-yard drive to help PG retake the lead with 50 seconds until halftime. From the 35, the found Gibson, who broke away from a defender for his third TD pass of the season.
Pleasant Grove's defense forced another punt, and this time Ty Boozer blocked it to set up a 42-yard field goal by Carter Buxton with one tick left on the clock.
Newsom and the Mustangs were not finished by any means. The Hawk offense again sputtered at the beginning of the third quarter, and Midland Christian, aided by a 35-yard scramble from its quarterback put together an 8-play, 56-yard scoring drive to claim a 26-24 lead with 3:50 left in the third quarter.
Things didn't look much better for PG a few minutes later when a personal foul penalty had the Hawks facing third and 23 at their own 45, but Johnson hit Torion Phillips for a short gain that the senior turned into a 20-yard pickup by simply refusing to go down. On fourth-and-three, Johnson juked his way through a hole for 35 yards and the score to make it 31-26, PG, with a minute to play in the third.
A few moments later, Mathis Buxton broke up a third-and-four pass to force another Mustang punt. Johnson hit Gibson for 18 yards and a first down, ran for nine, and then scrambled for 52 and another score to finally start to open breathing room at 38-26 with 10:49 remaining.
The Mustangs refused to admit defeat, holding the ball for 14 plays as they marched from their 25 to PG's 25. Facing fourth-and-seven, they went for slick trickery, with a pass back to Newsom, who then tried a hook-and-ladder that was sniffed out five yards short of the stick by Boozer.
Johnson's 41-yard bomb to Boardley set up the final score, a nine-yard toss to Landon West.
A win is a win, but this one left the Hawks with much to work on before hosting Frisco Centennial next week.
"It's all correctable," said Gibson. "We need to do the football art better.