Mightier Mustangs
Midland Valley's confidence soars thanks to victories early in season
By Billy Byler | Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Football talk on the Midland Valley practice field these days doesn't quite match up with chatter from years past. Instead of wishfully hoping for a big play or two, a homecoming victory or, at best, a region title, the Mustangs have bumped the banter up a notch.

"To put it simply, it feels like we can't be touched," senior linebacker Darian Curry said. "It feels like we can take this all the way to state."

Curry isn't the only big-thinking Mustang.

"It feels like we're on top of the world right now," senior Alex Carl said. "We're used to winning, and we haven't always had that. But now you look around and you feel like we can play with anybody."

Talk of contending for a state title, shutting out region opponents and running the table wasn't always heard on past Midland Valley teams. But this year's squad isn't like many past Midland Valley teams.

The Mustangs, who have tallied a 66-71 record and seven winning seasons during the past 13 years, are 4-1 for the first time since 1985 -- years before any player on the team was born. The past two weeks they've beaten Silver Bluff and Batesburg-Leesville, teams Midland Valley never had defeated previously.

"We had to open some eyes first," Midland Valley safety Rod Sims said. "The defense is confident nobody can beat us. We just had to prove it to everyone else."

Mustangs coach Rick Knight stood on the field at Silver Bluff before his team squeaked out a 7-6 win two weeks ago and said he would like a victory at some point before starting region play just to boost his players' confidence. He got two eye-opening wins in two weeks, and the Mustangs are no longer lacking in confidence.

"I'm hoping that's the case," Knight said. "Once you get that confidence, it grows and grows and other things start to happen. You get more chemistry on the team, the kids play together and help each other. It's big."

Midland Valley will need that confidence as it opens Region 5-AAA play Friday against undefeated Airport. It's the first region game for both teams, and players and coaches on each side know the implications.

"On paper, this is for everything," Knight said.

Airport, whose only region blemish last season was a three-point loss to the Mustangs to finish second in the region, will be looking for revenge at home. The Eagles feature W.T. Murden, considered one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in South Carolina with 10 passing touchdowns and eight on the ground.

Midland Valley has been led by its defense. The Mustangs lead the region with 75 points allowed in five games. Take away a 41-13 loss to Class AAAA North Augusta, and the Midland Valley defense has surrendered an average of 8.5 points per game.

The defense will be tested against an Airport offense leading the region with a 40-points-per-game average.

"It's going to be like a heavyweight fight," Midland Valley senior Cordes Pressley said. "Two good teams, and we've got to outlast them."

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.

From the Wednesday, September 30, 2009 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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