By Jake Evans:
Friday night, Briarcrest (5-2) travels down the road to MUS (6-0), to take on the Owls in a primetime DII-AAA matchup. Last week, MUS smacked St. Benedict 35-0 at home, while Briarcrest was in a heavyweight battle with Christian Brothers. The Saints fell 17-14 at home to CBHS, struggling to find an offensive spark the whole night. MUS currently sits atop the DII-AAA standings, with Briarcrest hot on their trail. A win for the Saints on Friday would be crucial, as the entire DII-AAA West District is within a game of each other. However, MUS has been virtually unstoppable, all year long.
For MUS, their success is led by their offense. QB Sellers Shy has been one of the best signal-callers in the state, averaging 227 YPG through the air. He’s thrown for 18 TDs and run for 5 too. His top target this season is WR Maurice Hampton, 4-star LSU DB commit. Hampton has been a weapon all over the field this year for the Owls, catching passes, and returning kicks and punts. Hampton is averaging nearly 180 all purpose YPG this season, with 12 total TDs through 6 games, and at least 2 TDs in all but 1 game this year. On defense, he’s been exceptional at DB, registering 18 tackles, 6 passes defended, and 1 sack. Simply put, Maurice Hampton is the key to MUS’ success so far, and the key to another win this week.
Even without Hampton, MUS’ defense has been phenomenal all year long. They’ve shut out three opponents, and are giving up an average of 9.1 PPG. The defense’s strength comes from the linebackers. Leading the way is 3-star LB Dorian Hopkins (2017 Mr. Football winner) with 39 tackles and 9.0 TFL, LB Jack Dabov with 35 tackles and 11.0 TFL, and LB Matthew Rhodes with 33 tackles and 10.0 TFL. That trio of backers has stopped the run and pass all year, and made it very difficult for opponents’ offenses to get any kind of a rhythm.
For Briarcrest, they have a fairly balanced offense. They’ve run for 193 YPG and thrown for 140 YPG through 7 games this season. QB Jackson Walker has been solid this year with 12 TDs and 4 INTs. He’s also added 187 rushing yards and 3 TDs. However, the real power comes from the dynamic run game. Junior RB Jabari Small leads the way this year with 103 YPG on the ground, and 8 TDs, while adding 2 TDs through the air. Behind Small, is junior RB Carrington Kelsey, who has tallied 259 yards and 3 TDs. Marlon Hampton has also been stellar, with 237 yards on the ground in 7 games. In order to have a chance versus the Owls’ outstanding defense, Briarcrest will have to find a way to balance their offense, but rely on the running game to step up big at least once on Friday.
Through 7 games, the Saints have given up an average of 17.1 PPG. They’ve been clutch when they’ve been called upon, as seen by two clutch wins by a combined 3 points. However, they’ve struggled some against the better teams on their schedule. If Briarcrest is going to win on Friday night, their defense is going to have to find a way to slow MUS’ offense as much as possible. With the success that Sellers Shy and Maurice Hampton have had this season, shutting MUS down entirely seems like a bit of a stretch. However, everytime Hampton is taken out of a play, that eliminates the Owls’ biggest weapon. To me, the name of the game for Briarcrest on Friday, is damage control. Plain and simple. If Briarcrest wants a shot at a good playoff seed, this game is a must win. A win for MUS all but solidifies their #1 seed for the West District of DII-AAA.
Kickoff is Friday night, October 12th at 7 PM, at MUS.