MERRITT ISLAND – One of Brevard County’s most consistent programs took a huge step towards securing a postseason berth on Friday night.
But it wasn’t easy.
Led by wide receiver-kicker Mason Denaburg and a strong defensive effort, the Merritt Island Mustangs moved to 3-0 in District 14-5A with a 14-12 win over Titusville.
“We told the kids all week we knew it was going to be a 48-minute game,” said Merritt Island head coach Jeff McLean. “Titusville’s physical, they’re playing well. We told our kids they’ve got to be ready to play 48 minutes.”
Titusville had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter after trailing 14-0 heading into the period when quarterback OC Brothers found Joe Irlbeck for an 11-yard touchdown pass a little more than midway through the fourth quarter.
Forced to go for a two-point conversion because an earlier extra point try was blocked, Titusville lined up in an unconventional formation with most of its players near the left sideline and a subsequent spread option were stopped. From there, the Merritt Island offense was able to whittle all about 20 seconds off the clock on offense and were able to stop Titusville from there.
There wasn’t much in the way of big plays in the first half, with the lone points in the half coming by way of a 36-yard field goal by Denaburg late in the second quarter that put the Mustangs up 3-0.
Titusville had an opportunity to get points of their own right before the half after they recovered a Mustang fumble in Merritt Island territory, but the Mustangs defense registered their second takeaway as Cameron Sorg’s interception thwarted the Terrier threat.
The Terriers recovered a Merritt Island onside kick to start the second half and progressed inside the Mustang 10, threatening to take the lead. But another interception once again frustrated the Terriers.
From there, Merritt Island began to separate. Denaburg hit his second field goal of the game, this one from 26 yards out that put his team up 6-0.
More good news for the Mustangs came after they stopped a Terrier fake punt attempt near midfield as on the ensuing play, quarterback Jimmy Batch found Deben Peterson for a 52-yard score. A 2-point pass play following the touchdown from Batch to Jake Martin put Merritt Island up 14-0, and it seemed as though the Mustangs might have clear sailing from there.
“Jimmy (Batch) played amazing,” said Denaburg. “He just knows how to get the ball to the right players.”
But a blocked punt from Titusville in Merritt Island territory seemed to really energize the Terriers. They capitalized on the great field position with a short drive capped off by a run from Dontavious Marcus that got them to within 14-6, though a missed extra point after the score would ultimately loom large.
Merritt Island faces unbeaten Palm Bay next week in a district matchup full of playoff implications. The Pirates can clinch the district with a win next week while Merritt Island can clinch with a win next week combined with either a win over Rockledge or a Rockledge loss to Titusville.
“It’s another big district game,” McLean added. “We knew we were going to have three big district games in a row with Titusville, Palm Bay and Rockledge to finish out the year. We’ve just got to come ready to play. Palm Bay’s a great team. They’re well-coached like they always are.”
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Denaburg added. “It’s like the biggest game of the year for us basically.”
The loss dropped Titusville to 1-2 in district play, which effectively ends their chances at a playoff berth.
MERRITT ISLAND 14, TITUSVILLE 12
T– 0 0 0 12 – 12
MI– 0 3 11 0 – 14
MI- Mason Denaburg 36 field goal; 3:11
MI- Denaburg 26 field goal; 6:55
MI- Deben Peterson 52 pass from Jimmy Batch (Batch to Jake Martin 2-point pass); 3:20
T- Dontavious Marcus 8 run (kick failed); 7:15
T- Joe Irlbeck 11 pass from OC Brothers (2-point run failed); 5:25
Passing- T: OC Brothers 16-28-180 yards- 2 INT (TD); MI: Jimmy Batch 10-18-169 yards (TD)
Rushing- T: Brothers 16-55, Dontavious Marcus 9-40 (TD), Trimarea Charles 1-3. MI: Jimmy Batch 16-37, Brandon Montanez 9-35, Sean Diggs 4-14, Deben Peterson 5-12, Desmond Jean-Baptist 3-7, Mason Denaburg 1-5, Team 1-2;
Receiving- T: RaShean Lynn 4-60, Charles 5-49, Marcus 3-19, Joe Irlbeck 3-21 (TD), Liam Szczerba 1-10; MI: Mason Denaburg 3-69, Deben Peterson 4-64 (TD), Connor Allen 2-29, Jake Martin 1-7.