As the referees blew the final whistle in the Powderpuff championship game, McMurtry College students poured onto the Rice Stadium field to celebrate. Their college had just won its second consecutive Powderpuff title, this time in a 12-0 victory over Hanszen College. McMurtry sophomore running back Miranda Lee said she was extremely proud to win once again.
“It feels really good,” Lee said. “It’s really a good feeling to know that it wasn’t just a fluke [last year]. McMurtry came back and did it again.”
For the second straight year, McMurtry finished the season undefeated. Its last loss came in the 2015 semifinals against Martel College. Hanszen was competing in the championship game for the third straight year after winning in 2015 and losing in 2016 to McMurtry.
The game was deadlocked at 0-0 in the second quarter when McMurtry led a long drive into Hanszen territory. Junior receiver and defensive back Quinn Mathews caught two straight passes to get McMurtry on the board. The first set the team up at the five yard line. On the next play, senior quarterback Kelsi Wicker lofted a pass to Mathews in the left corner of the end zone and she came down with the touchdown catch. Mathews said she was happy Wicker gave her a chance to make a play.
“I told [Wicker], ‘You just have to throw it deep and just let me run for it,’” Mathews said. “And she was like, ‘Alright!’”
McMurtry could not convert the point after try and the score remained 6-0 at halftime. Early in the third quarter, McMurtry again mounted a long drive aided by two pass interference penalties on the defense. This time, however, the team would not convert. On fourth and goal from the three, McMurtry ran a play nearly identical to the touchdown pass earlier in the game. Wicker threw a lob toward Mathews in the left corner of the end zone, but this time the Hanszen defender broke up the pass.
Hanszen countered with a long drive of its own early in the fourth quarter in an effort to tie the game or take the lead. Still trailing 6-0, a deep pass set up the offense at midfield. Once again, however, Mathews stepped up for McMurtry, this time on defense. She intercepted a pass to end the threat. Mathews said the entire defense deserved credit for the turnover.
“It was a team effort,” Mathews said. “Everybody was covering all the other receivers. They wouldn’t let them get open. Then [the ball] just came to me out of nowhere.”
McMurtry iced the game with a methodical drive built on running plays. Lee led the attack, repeatedly getting to the edge and rushing for chunks of yardage down the sideline. According to Lee, McMurtry’s blockers played a big role in the team’s success on the ground.
“I was seeing really amazing blocking,” Lee said. “I can run as fast as I can, but those blocks have to be there, and they were. That was the huge, huge thing.”
After Lee helped the offense get into the red zone, McMurtry finished off the drive with a passing touchdown. This time, it was senior receiver Ari Brown who made the touchdown catch on the throw from Wicker. The touchdown put McMurtry up 12-0 and essentially ended the game.
The shutout was McMurtry’s sixth of the season in nine games. Head coach Brian Gibson said the team’s defense has been particularly impressive.
“The defense has been really, really stout,” Gibson said. “Unusually so, too, because we had to move people around to different positions on a regular basis and plug holes when we had injuries or somebody had to miss a game. Yet they still figured out what the schemes were and knew their roles and responsibilities.”
McMurtry finished the year with a point differential of plus-225, just better than last year’s plus-217 mark. Second best this season was Duncan College, which had a plus-60 point differential. While next year’s team will have to replace players like Wicker and Brown, McMurtry will be looking to win its third consecutive championship. Lee said she is honored to be part of such a successful team.
“All I know is this amazing team,” Lee said. “Coming back this year as a sophomore, I have more perspective. Especially this year, we were really good, but we got scored on. It was humbling. We can make mistakes. We’re flawed. But we come out every game and play with each other as a team…I’m really grateful for this team.”