Once the clock struck zero at the football field outside Albion High School on Friday evening, the Mustang players ran across the sideline in an unquestioned moment of pure joy. Most of the team ran over to the fence and went down the line in an impromptu victory lap, high-fiving a collection of cheering friends, family members and fans.
But after the moment of celebration, it was quickly on to the Doc’s Rock presentation at the center of the field, where the family of longtime Medina head coach Larry Decker came out to present the rock to the Mustangs, who get to keep it at Medina HS for another year. Once the presentation had concluded, Medina and Albion players mingled together at midfield for a few minutes, congratulating each other on their efforts in the rivalry game that served as a high-scoring affair for the second straight year. After the two teams combined for 90 points in last year’s 56-34 Medina victory, this year’s edition produced a combined 69 points.
In the end, Medina was just a little bit better. The Mustangs won 38-31, clinching a berth in this year’s Section VI playoffs.
“We had our best week of practice all season, by far, this week,” junior quarterback Jason Hellwig said. “We were able to keep it intense in practice, and it paid off in the game. From beginning to end, we came out with a lot of intensity, and I thought we were able to put it all together today.”
Once the mingling was complete, the Mustangs took some more time to savor the moment, as the team posed for pictures near the 30-yard line; all smiles, of course. Friends and family members were now on the field, having a good time, in a moment that nobody wanted to end.
The Mustangs had not won in Albion since 1999, and found a way to reverse the trend in one of the most important games between the Route 31 rivals in recent years. Hellwig went 11-of-18 passing for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the win, tying Levi Pace (2007-09) for most passing touchdowns in a career with 29. Kyle Barna hauled in six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, while also adding 65 yards and two scores on the ground. Munjie Brown rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown, demonstrating the strength of the team’s two-running back system.
Tom Follman led the team with 12 tackles, fully completing a comeback from a concussion suffered in a game against Burgard three weeks back. Sophomore wide receiver Dylan Lewis was sidelined for the game with an injury in the first quarter, but others stepped in and kept the offense moving along seamlessly for the remainder of the game.
It was a total team effort on Friday night, on one of the biggest stages possible in Class B North football. It can’t get much better than that.
“It was the highest-stakes game I’ve ever played in,” Hellwig said. “We talked about how we needed to win by five, but we said we wanted to win by 20 anyway; that was our goal, to beat them by as much as we could.”
“The one thing I was trying to do, was just to keep my team up top and come out with the win,” Brown added. “Just wanted to keep it positive and not negative. Getting in the playoffs, it’s just wonderful. It feels great.”