SPRINGFIELD – The MacArthur Generals seemed to be set up for a letdown game.
After their surprising victory against Sacred Heart-Griffin last Friday and a 2-0 start, the Generals seemed ready to come back to earth a little bit.
Problem is, nobody told MacArthur or their coach Derek Spates.
The Generals (3-0, 3-0) continued their winning ways Saturday night under the lights of Memorial Stadium, as they squeaked out a 14-13 victory against Springfield High in a Central State 8 game.
“There can’t be a letdown when you’ve won two games in two years," Spates said. "When we beat SHG last week, it was great and everything but all we did was tie our win record for the last two years.”
The game was filled with sloppy play on both sides of the field with missed opportunities everywhere you look. Spates was not too happy with the team’s mistakes.
"We were fortunate to win tonight," Spates said. "We had a fumble down at the end zone, blocks in the back, touchdowns called back. And we were playing against a team that is playing as well as anyone in our conference.”
The first half saw MacArthur and Springfield each notch a touchdown with the Generals’ offense led by running back Izaiha Johnson who returned to the field after missing last week’s game with an illness.
The MacArthur offense was slowed continually by dropped passes and penalties that seemed to drag down an offense that was looking to shift gears.
Still, Spates was OK with the team’s first have performance.
“7-7 at halftime, we will live with that all day," he said.
Those team errors would rise to the surface again in the second half as MacArthur’s Martiece O’Neal returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown only to have it called back by a penalty.
The crowd’s groans were probably audible back in Decatur.
After trading possessions with Springfield, the Generals built another impressive drive late in the third quarter only to see it end abruptly with a fumble by Amir Brummett on the Springfield 12-yard line.
But where the offense sputtered, MacArthur’s defense turned it up as they pushed the Senators further and further back and nearly recorded a safety on two separate plays to end Springfield’s drive.
The defense stepped up again in a later drive as linebacker Ricky McKellar intercepted Springfield’s Lucas Rockford’s pass, leading to a Ray Neal Jr. touchdown catch from Amir Brummett.
From the MacArthur stands, the catch appeared to be dropped but the referees stated he had possession long enough for the touchdown to stand, giving the Generals a 14-7 lead.
The Senators were not done yet, though. They responded with a strong drive of their own, highlighted by an impressive fourth-and-5 conversion with five minutes left in the game.
Springfield eventually scored on a 26-yard pass to Cameron Jones, but the extra point was no good, preserving MacArthur's one-point lead.
With the victory, Spates sees a lot of potential in his General.
“If we could have mistake-free football, what could we be then? We left a lot of points on the board up there," Spates said. "They threatened us at times, but we threatened them more. We’ve got to get better and improve in all phases of the game.”
Spates is also concerned with the notion that his team is simply star quarterback Amir, and receiver Armon Brummett.
“MacArthur High School is not The Brummetts," Spates said. "We are not the MacArthur Brummetts. We are the MacArthur Generals. I’ve been telling people that. There are other guys on this team that can make plays. But that’s what everybody writes. It is the Brummett twins and we don’t know who else MacArthur has. These guys are not upset, but they want to prove that it is not just the Brummetts. It’s so much more.”
The Generals did what they said they wanted to do.
They proved they were much more tonight, with the strong running of Izaiha Johnson, the return speed of Martiece O’Neal, and the pass catching of Ray Neal Jr.
Spates added, “a win is always great, but we are in a pursuit of perfection.”
At 3-0, MacArthur is one step closer to reaching that goal.