As Manor senior wide receiver Darian Fletcher corralled the onside kick, the Mustangs sideline could finally relax.
Coasting to what seemed like an easy win a few minutes earlier, the Mustangs withstood a late Rouse rally and took a 20-18 District 11-5A Division I win Thursday at Bible Stadium in a game that slogged through three quarters before finishing on a sprint.
The teams combined for six turnovers, 13 punts and less than 20 first downs as the defenses dominated until the final frame.
“I’m not happy with the way we played, but you have to give Rouse credit,” Manor coach Jimmie Mitchell said. “We dropped way too many balls, had too many turnovers, made too many mistakes we haven’t been making, and when you do that, you’re not playing well. And we didn’t play well, and that’s on me as the coach.”
Manor (4-2, 2-0 District 11-5A D-I) led 20-3 midway through the fourth when Rouse took over at midfield.
The Raiders (0-7, 0-3) hadn’t recorded a second-half first down up to that point, but that was about to change. Rouse quickly drove for a touchdown, as Drew Henson plunged in from the 1 after making a 29-yard reception the previous play.
When Rouse got the ball back a short time later, the Raiders raced 70 yards in seven plays, Henson hauling in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Sam Giebelhaus with 1:16 left.
But Fletcher had sure hands on Rouse’s onside kick, and with the Raiders out of timeouts, the Mustangs ran out the clock and picked up a crucial district win.
“The main thing is that maybe this is a wake-up call,” Mitchell said. “We came in off a bye on a three-game winning streak where we were pretty dominant. We came in here and didn’t play well, so hopefully it wakes us up that we got to go to work and get our nose to the grindstone again.”
Yael Sanchez kicked a pair of field goals to give the Mustangs a 6-3 lead heading into the fourth before Nate Jackson hit Dayron Butler III for a 9-yard TD pass to cap a 56-yard scoring drive that was kept alive by two Rouse penalties.
On the Raiders’ ensuing possession, Tyler Guyton blocked a punt and Madior Dieng returned it 29 yards for a score to put Manor ahead 20-3.
“I just picked it up and ran as fast as I could,” Dieng said. “I was kind of tired. It was exciting to score.”
Dieng, a senior defensive tackle, was a big reason the Mustangs had a dominant night defensively.
Even with their final two drives, Manor kept the Raiders to less than 250 yards of offense.
“We just worked together, listened to our coaches and read our keys,” Dieng said.
Tahj Brooks finished with 114 yards rushing to lead the Manor offense, while EJ Moore ran for 139 yards and Henson ended with four catches for 80 yards to pace Rouse.
The win was especially critical for the Mustangs’ postseason hopes as they still have to face Cedar Park, Hutto and Georgetown in district play.
“The defense stepped up today, and the offense has to be better going forward,” Brooks said. “It feels good to be 2-0 in district. We just have to keep our heads up and keep getting wins.”
“This might be heaven-sent for us,” Mitchell said. “It could be good. We have to build on it.”