Mustangs capitalize on turnovers to hold off strong Charlo team

The Ennis Mustangs football team advanced to the semifinal round of the 2012 Montana Class C 8-man playoffs with a 44-30 win over the Charlo Vikings on Saturday, proving their dominance in their closest victory yet this season.

Ennis Mustangs quarterback Dalton Bullock (12) cuts upfield against the Charlo Vikings on Saturday afternoon in Ennis. The Mustangs won 44-30. Photo by Ben Coulter.

Senior quarterback Dalton Bullock put up a big game, completing 10 of 22 passes for 144 yards while scrambling for 46 yards on the ground with 12 carries. But the fancy play of key position players alone wasn’t enough to carry the Mustangs past Charlo as the Vikings struck first putting points on the board in the first quarter.

Just when it looked like Ennis could be in trouble, the defense stepped up in the second quarter, highlighted by a misguided pitch that junior Connor Sullivan swatted into the backfield and recovered on the one-yard line.  After the Mustangs offense proceeded to put up three quick scores, junior Walker McKitrick closed out the first half by returning an interception for a touchdown.

The final play of the second quarter sent Ennis into halftime with the momentum in their corner, while Charlo went to the locker room stunned and on their heels.

Ennis junior Derek Wham (center) and teammates celebrate their 44-30 victory over Charlo on Saturday in Ennis. The Mustangs will travel to take on Fairview this weekend. Photo by Ben Coulter.

“I just knew it from the beginning it was coming, and it was a great feeling,” McKitrick said of the interception. “I was baiting their quarterback into that throw all day.”

If the Mustangs thought they could coast through the second half, they were wrong. Charlo came out to put up another score on a 53-yard run for the only score of the third quarter, and looked to take the gloves off against Ennis to advance to the quarterfinal game. But turnovers played a critical factor in the fourth quarter, with both teams on the verge of breaking away for the win before making costly mistakes to give the ball back to the other side. After the game, McKitrick credited Charlo for their tenacity.

“Their speed killed us on offense, and they’re a great team,” he said. “We just came out wanting to win more.”

The Mustangs will play Fairview on the road this weekend for a shot at the state championship game on Nov. 17. Fairview beat Ennis 44-0 in late August for the Mustangs only loss thus far this season. As for Saturday’s win over Charlo, the hard earned victory should prepare the Mustangs for a tough matchup this coming weekend.

“We knew we had to step it up, we were losing it there for a while,” said McKitrick.  “We knew we had to pick our heads up and come back from that.”

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