In one sense, the feeling that Sweetwater head football coach Shane Mobley had after Friday’s season-opening 23-13 win over Eastland at the Sammy Baugh Classic in Mustang Bowl was probably not a lot different from what he had felt on 40 other occasions while serving as an assistant on four playoff teams here from 2004-08 that had a combined 40-13 record.
But there were some major differences this time.
Those teams from a few years back were not only used to winning but expected to, and Mobley was part of a staff helping to keep a longtime tradition going strong under then-head coach Kent Jackson.
But on Friday, Mobley was pacing the sidelines as a first-time head coach in his first game back at Sweetwater and the Bowl — and hoping for a season-opening win to help get the Mustangs back to their old winning ways after a three-year playoff drought.
Consider this a pretty good start toward accomp-lishing that goal, although it didn’t exactly start out that way.
Eastland led 6-0 after one quarter and while the Mav-ericks dominated the open-ing period, they failed to score after a 13-play drive and got their touchdown on a flukish play when a punt deflected off a Sweetwater player and was recovered by Eastland’s Luis Ojeda in the end zone.
After that, however, the Mustangs gradually began to take control of the game as they scored the next 20 points and kept the Maver-icks out of the end zone again until the fourth quarter with a bend-but-don’t break defensive effort.
After starting with a pair of 3-and-outs, the offense finally got cranked up as senior Ryan Linebaugh got loose for a 40-yard touch-down run on the second play of the second quarter. Tadeo Canon-Masjoan’s extra point kick put Sweet-water ahead to stay at 7-6.
Sophomore QB Kaegan Jeffrey then guided a longer scoring drive later in the period, one that covered 88 yards in 11 plays and made it 13-6 in Sweetwater’s favor. The drive began with a 33-yard run by junior Marquees Jenkins. It was twice kept alive with fourth-down runs of 4 and 11 yards by Canon-Masjoan, and was capped by Linebaugh’s sec-ond touchdown run, this one covering 16 yards.
Eastland took the second half kickoff and drove from its 25 to Sweetwater’s 1, where quarterback Josh Moylan tried to sneak over for the TD and pull his team within a point. However, Moylan was stripped of the ball by Jenkins before cros-sing the goal line and team-mate Ty Davis picked up the loose ball and returned it to Sweetwater’s 11.
That, in turn, led to another scoring drive that was highlighted by the running of Jenkins, Jeffrey, Linebaugh, Bray Amos and finally Canon-Masjoan, as the bruising 250-pound senior took the handoff and scored from the 4 to give Sweetwater a 20-6 advan-tage with 6:04 remaining in the third period.
Eastland then put together another potential scor-ing drive as the Mavs got to Sweetwater’s 15, but Willie Norman batted away a third-down pass near the end zone and Isaiah McGee stopped Eastland’s Jeremiah Sloan just short on a fourth-down run.
The Mustangs would deny Eastland again as the fourth quarter got underway. This time, the Mavs chewed up more than five minutes in moving from their 28 to Sweetwater’s 18 before a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
But Eastland — which gained 384 yards to 326 for Sweetwater — finally got on the board and cut Sweet-water’s lead to 20-13 when Moylan hit Ryan Harris on a 27-yard pass with 3:34 left in the game. The Mavericks went for the onsides kick, but it didn’t travel quite far enough and Sweetwater took over at Eastland’s 44.
From there the Mustangs again stuck to the ground, with Canon-Masjoan pick-ing up a key first down with a 20-yard run to the 18. The drive stalled at the 10, but Canon-Masjoan came on to kick a 27-yard field goal through the uprights and basically seal the victory with 1:18 to play.
Moylan, who set a pair of Classic records by complet-ing 30 of 49 passes, got the Mavs back in scoring range in the waning seconds, but his fourth-down pass was intercepted by Norman as Sweetwater ran out the clock on a game that lasted close to three hours.
“Our defense bowed its neck we had to,” said Mob-ley. “There were huge plays the whole game. We gave them some things (offens-ively), but we didn’t break.”
Offensively, Jenkins led the team with 101 yards rushing. Linebaugh had 92, and Canon-Masjoan ran for 42 on five carries.
After opening with a win at their Classic, where they are now 6-2 since the event started in 2005, the Mustangs will return to the Bowl this Friday for an early homecoming contest as they face another set of Mustangs from Andrews.
Sweetwater 23, Eastland 13
Score by Quarters
Eastland 6 0 0 7 — 13
S’water 0 13 7 3 — 23
E — Luis Ojeda fumble recovery in end zone (pass failed)
S — Ryan Linebaugh 40 run (Tadeo Canon-Masjoan kick)
S — Linebaugh 16 run (kick failed)
S — Canon-Masjoan 4 run (Canon-Masjoan kick)
E — Ryan Harris 27 pass from Josh Moylan (Michael Carrion kick)
S — Canon-Masjoan 27 FG
First Downs 22 15
Rushes-Yards 32-126 39-291
Passing Yards 258 35
Total Yards 384 326
Passes 30-49-1 5-14-0
Punts 4-37 5-32
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties 7-48 12-95
Rushing — Sweetwater: Kaegan Jeffrey 13-44, Ryan Linebaugh 10-92, Marquees Jenkins 9-101, Tadeo Canon-Masjoan 5-42, Bray Amos 2-12. Eastland: Brandon Allen 12-56, Josh Moylan 15-64, Samuel Joiner 5-6.
Passing — Sweetwater: Kaegan Jeffrey 5-14-0—35. Eastland: Josh Moylan 30-49-1-258.
Receiving — Sweetwater: Bray Amos 2-15, Willie Norman 1-8, Colton Belew 1-2, Kaleb Hoover 1-10. Eastland: Ryan Harris 3-35, Jeremiah Sloan 7-41, Clint Galyean 7-89, Brandon Allen 6-36, Jonathan Vasquez 1-0, Mason Thayer 3-27, Matt Majors 3-30.