One of comedic legend Rodney Dangerfield’s biggest catchphrases was: “I don’t get no respect”.
Despite sporting a record free of any losses – one of only two teams in South Florida as such – and being the No. 4 ranked team in the last SFHSSports Top 25 Poll, McArthur feels like it can’t get any respect.
Out to prove that they’re no fluke, the Mustangs manufactured a 34-17 win over visiting Doral Academy Friday night in the region 4-7A regional quarterfinals in front of 2,500 fans.
McArthur (11-0), which will travel to play Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy (10-1) next Friday in the regional semifinals, led 34-10 through the fourth quarter before the Firebirds were able to tack on an inconsequential touchdown in the waning seconds.
Sophomore quarterback Deon Jones led the way for McArthur, throwing three touchdown passes and accumulating 262 yards (16-of-21) in the air along with rushing for a team-high 53 yards and adding a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
Mustangs head coach Laron Culpepper, who’s been vocal on social media lobbying on his team’s behalf for more recognition for their historical season, said he was confident his squad would come out with a victory against the Firebirds.
“We had a game plan and the team went out there and executed…Doral Academy is who we thought they were,” Culpepper said. “I can’t make anyone write stories about us. I have people ask me all the time, ‘how come I haven’t seen anything about McArthur?’ – all we can do is keep winning.”
McArthur showed why it’s been on the winning side of the scoreboard all season long – a vast arsenal of talented athletes on both sides of the ball capable of making “splash” plays.
Junior athlete Dominick Watt was on the receiving end of two of Jones’ touchdown passes – including a 33-yard downfield heave that saw Watt easily break away from single coverage and give the Mustangs a 27-10 lead with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
Running back Craig Cooper capped off what ended up being a 20-point quarter for McArthur with a 20-yard scoring dash that put the Mustangs ahead 34-10 with just over a minute and a half left in the third quarter.
Watt finished with three catches for 55 yards; 6-foot-5 receiver Damarco Harris finished with 90 yards and a touchdown on four receptions, while Jaquan “Cheetah” Denson hauled in a team-high seven catches for 100 yards.
Also, McArthur was able to put its victory on ice by piling up over 120 rushing yards – with seven different ball carriers – in the second half to finish with a total of 175.
Doral Academy’s undoing was a pair of third-quarter fumbles – both leading to McArthur touchdowns.
The Firebirds (8-3) got on the board first midway through the opening quarter on a 42-yard Vladimir Rivas field goal and they took a 10-7 lead late in the second quarter after quarterback Angel Alvarez connected with Natavious Payne on a 33-yard pass into the corner of the endzone.
Doral struggled to find that same success in the second half. In addition to the costly turnovers, the Firebirds rushed for a total of nine yards in the final 24 minutes and had trouble keeping Mustang pass rushers away from Alvarez.
Receiver Dextan Hodge ended up having the best night for Doral Academy – finishing with nine receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. Alvarez was 24 of 43 for 212 passing yards and senior running back Javier Zuniga ran for 80 yards on 13 carries in his final high school game.