The North Shore Mustangs, against many odds, have journeyed a tough road to earn the right to play in the state championship game, most recently defeating Converse Judson 23-17 at NRG Stadium Saturday evening. Judson, a perennially tough opponent, has advanced to the state semifinals 18 times a state record. But on this day, the Mustangs doused the Rockets fuse with a mighty defensive effort and the strength of their special teams.
The first score, and the only score of the first quarter, was a 23-yard field goal by North Shore’s kicker Aaron Cuevas. The defense shut down the Converse offense, aided by a punishing defensive line and a perfectly timed interception by Eric Monroe. In the second quarter the Mustang offense got things rolling, capping a drive with a 32-yard touchdown run by Eric Monroe, giving the Mustangs a 10-0 lead. But four minutes later the Rockets scored on a 58-yard pass. As tension mounted, Aaron Cuevas again answered the call, kicking a 46-yard field goal to give the Mustangs a little breathing room and a 13-7 lead at the half. But the cushion was not enough as the Rockets scored first in the second half and took the lead 13-14.
With the game in the balance and the Rockets holding on to their fragile lead, Cuevas was called upon one more time. He sent the ball through the uprights from 37 yards and helped the Mustangs regain the lead. The defense held firm, frustrating the Rockets attempts to move the ball and score. The linebackers were relentless in their pursuit of the quarterback and never gave him an opportunity to throw the ball cleanly.
As critical as special teams was in scoring for the Mustangs, it was also key to keeping the Rockets from scoring. North Shore and Judson punted the ball 10 times each; however, North Shore punted for a total of 382 yards. With booming punts and outstanding coverage, the Rockets were pinned deep in their own territory often. Late in the game, leading by two points, the Mustangs offense failed to get a first down. Aaron Cuevas booted a punt that buried the Rockets inside the 10-yard line. Two plays later the Mustangs forced a fumble and Abril Harrison picked it up at the two-yard line. One play later Carl Guillory punched it in for a touchdown, putting the Mustangs up 23-14. On their following drive, the Rockets moved the ball down the field, but the Mustangs held them to an inconsequential field goal since the Mustangs jumped on the ensuing onside kick. As the seconds ticked off the clock, the message for the Mustangs was clear, “We’re going to state!”
The North Shore Mustangs will take on the Austin Westlake Chaparrals at NRG Stadium Saturday, December 19 @ 4PM.