FREDERICK -- The undefeated Mead football team is in the midst of running a potentially daunting second-half-of-the-season gauntlet.
The Mavericks' opponents for Games 6 through 10 came into this week's action with combined won-loss records of 24-6.
To successfully navigate that kind of stretch, there can be no significant letdown. And, so far, there hasn't been. But Thursday night turned out to be as much of a challenge as the Mavericks would like.
Mead needed a fake punt and later a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter to regain the momentum in a 36-17 road victory over a Frederick squad which came in with a 5-1 record.
Frederick rallied from a 21-3 deficit to get within four and had the ball, but was forced to punt. The Warriors then stopped Mead, which was lined up for a punt on fourth-and-5 at its own 45.
That's when the Mavericks seemed to turn the course of the game as the ball was snapped to an up-man, who handed the ball to Derek Edwards, who not only gained the first down, but ran for 34 yards.
Mead's Taylor Kamigaki subsequently hit the crossbar with a 37-yard field goal attempt, But on the third play from scrimmage on the next series, Frederick running back Jacob Cole fumbled and MHS' Jesus Encinas recovered.
Nathan Mackey, who rushed for 127 yards on the night, would go on to score on a 1-yard TD run with 6:37 remaining to make it an 11-point game, and he later rushed for another TD to account for a final margin that was somewhat deceiving.
"They started to push us to the wall a little, which is good," Mead coach Jason Klatt said. "You don't want to just blow everyone out. I was proud of our guys for just sustaining the effort and coming back at them."
The Mavericks improved to 7-0 (and 2-0 in the Tri-Valley League), winning their first seven games in a season for the second time in five years.
Frederick, which is running a similar late-season gauntlet of opponents as Mead, dropped to 5-2 and 1-1. which is saying something considering the Warriors were 2-28 over the previous three seasons. But that didn't make Thursday's loss any easier to take.
"It's tough to swallow," FHS coach Travis Peeples said. "We shot ourselves in the foot. (Mead is) a great team. If they're No. 1 in the state, that's great. It means we're right there with them.
"We didn't finish tonight. They beat us. But our goals are still in front of us."
Mead, meanwhile, was happy to escape with its record unblemished.
"It's always a little concerning (when it's that close), but our defense picked us up and we eventually did what we know we would do," said Mead QB Tyler Keys who finished with 86 yards rushing and two touchdowns, plus 65 yards passing with one TD through the air. "This was the closest game we had. It felt that way. Frederick played great. You've got to give it to them."
Also effective on the ground for Mead was Edwards, who finished with 100 yards on 11 carries. For Frederick, James Jones ran for 140 yards.
Mead scored touchdowns the first three times it had the ball, the first two after converting fourth-down plays. Keys had a hand in all three, running for scores of 2 and 39 yards, and connecting with Dominic Esters for a 28-yard TD strike.
The Mavericks led 21-3, but Frederick drove 90 yards late in the first half and scored a TD on Matt Olsen's 1-yard run to cut the MHS advantage at intermission to 11.
Then after Mead went three-and-out after the third-quarter kickoff, Frederick kept the momentum going with a 51-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard TD run by Cole.
Next up, Mead hosts Holy Family, while Frederick plays at Berthoud, both on Oct. 20.
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Mead 36, Frederick 17
At Frederick H.S.Mead (7-0, 2-0)714015—36Frederick (5-2, 1-1)01070—17
Mead — Tyler Keys 2 run (Taylor Kamigaki kick).
Mead — Keys 39 run (Kamigaki kick). Frederick — Luke Dunker 31 FG. Mead — Dominic Esters 28 pass from Keys (Kamigaki kick).
Frederick — Jacob Cole 1 run (Dunker kick).
Mead — Nathan Mackey 1 run (Kamigaki kick). Mead — Mackey 7 run (pass to Mackey).
RUSHING — Mead: Mackey 24-127, Edwards 11-100, Keys 11-86, Wachter 2-38. Frederick: Jones 24-140, Olsen 13-67, Cole 7-24, Green 3-9, Robb 1-1.
PASSING — Mead: Keys 6-7-0-65. Frederick: Green 5-12-0-37.
RECEIVING — Mead: Esters 2-35, Edwards 2-19, Shellenberger 1-7, Mackey 1-4. Frederick: Frederick: Olsen 2-11, Polansky 1-18, Lords 1-5, Cole 1-3.