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BIG SPRING â€” The big-gest game of the season for Sweetwater produced its highest-scoring and most lopsided win of 2012.
More importantly, Fri-dayâ€™s 42-9 victory catapul-ted the Mustangs (2-1, 4-4) into the forefront of the District 4-3A playoff picture and set up a monumental game with Monahans (2-1, 4-4) this Friday in Sweet-waterâ€™s final home game.
A win over the Loboes by first-year coach Shane Mobleyâ€™s team would, in all likelihood, assure Sweet-water of its first playoff berth since 2008, while a loss could force the Must-angs to knock off first-place Wylie (3-0, 8-0) in the season finale on Nov. 9 in order to accomplish that feat.
Monahans defeated Sny-der, 37-12, on Friday while Wylie beat Midland Green-wood 48-20. Greenwood and Snyder are both 1-2 in district play.
Big Spring? The Steers, after an impressive 5-0 run through non-district, are now 0-3 in district and have been all but eliminated from playoff consideration.
Sweetwater, meanwhile, showed little resemblance to the team that had lost 31-13 at home to Greenwood seven nights earlier.
The Mustangs were in complete control from the start of the contest.
Sweetwater scored touchdowns on each of its first three possessions against Big Spring to take a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. By then, the Mustangs al-ready had 241 yards and 12 first downs, while holding Big Spring to 19 yards and a single first down.
The Steers finally rallied, putting together a 77-yard, eight-play scoring drive to cut Sweetwaterâ€™s advantage to 21-6. Big Spring then held on defense for the first time and blocked a Sweetwater punt. Suddenly, the Steers were on the verge of cutting into the lead again after starting from Sweetwaterâ€™s 40, and they had first-and-goal from the 10 after a 15-yard run by quarterback Tobyn Tannehill. But from the 3, Tannehill threw in-complete on third down and the Steers decided to settle for a field goal that cut the lead to 21-9.
Sweetwater then regained its dominance. With the help of two straight 15-yard facemask penalties called on Big Spring, the Mustangs quickly moved into scoring range and increased their lead to 28-9 on Willie Nor-manâ€™s TD catch just 20 seconds before halftime.
The defense then made its presence felt and helped Sweetwater put the game out of reach with two third-quarter touchdowns, both by Ryan Linebaugh â€” who finished with three scores during the evening.
Kaleb Hoover intercep-ted a Tannehill pass and returned it 24 yards to the Big Spring 16. From there, Linebaugh took a handoff and ran it in to give the Mustangs a 35-9 lead. Big Spring drove to Sweetwat-erâ€™s 8, but then fumbled and the Mustangs recovered to end the threat. Sweetwater then used a 42-yard pass to Bray Amos to set up a 2-yard Linebaugh run for the last TD, which came as time expired in the third quarter and made it 42-9.
Now the Mustangs must get ready to play a Mona-hans team that has beaten both Greenwood (20-13) and Snyder in District 4-3A play, and also pushed Wylie to the limit in a three-point (20-17) loss to the Bulldogs when the teams met at Wylie on Oct. 19.
But while the Mustangs will be underdogs, even at home, Sweetwater is com-ing off a game that saw it gain 430 yards, commit no turnovers and get penalized only five times for 38 yards. in by far its most complete performance of the year.
Quarterback Kaegan Jef-frey was 14-of-21 for 269 yards and three scores, in-cluding two first-quarter TD throws to Amos that gave Sweetwater to a 14-o lead less than seven minutes in.
â€śWe played really good tonight,â€ť said offensive co-ordinator Zach Harrell. â€śWe finally saw it all come together tonight. When we donâ€™t stop ourselves, we are pretty darn good.â€ť
Sweetwaterâ€™s defense also had a very good night, hold-ing an opponent below 10 points for the first time.
â€śIâ€™m very proud of our kids,â€ť Mobley said. â€śThey knew what we had to do and they came out and executed tonight. Now the key for us is not to be satisfied.
â€śWeâ€™ve got to get ready for a huge game.â€ť
After gaining just 16 yards against Greenwood, Sweetwater rediscovered its running game against Big Spring. Though no individual player had a huge night, the team finished with a respectable 161 yards on 35 rushes.
Linebaugh had 38 yards on 11 carries to lead Sweet-water, while Isaiah McGee had 37 yards on just three attempts.
Sweetwaterâ€™s 42 points were the most the team has scored in over two years.
â€śThe kids came out fired up,â€ť Mobley said. â€śThe sideline was yelling the whole game and we came out and played hard.â€ť
Amos (4, 87) and Nor-man (3, 94) were the most productive receivers for the Mustangs, though Hoover also had four catches. Line-baugh and McGee also had receptions for Sweetwater.