Lucas Lenhoff certainly wasn’t accustomed to playing football in below-freezing weather.
His first week at Myers Park High was a long way from the warmth of Los Angeles, but the Mustangs represented opportunity after California’s coronavirus-induced lockdowns short-circuited high school football.
Cold or not, it was football.
“The biggest thing for me was the first week we actually came out one day and it had to be like high-20s,” said Lenhoff, a junior quarterback. “It was freezing, windy. The first couple of days were hard. I had to get used to it being a California kid coming here to something totally different, but I’m just happy to be here and be a part of it.”
Lenhoff, one of seven Californians to transfer in, warmed up sufficiently as Southwestern 4A champions -- a title Myers Park (7-0) wrapped up Friday with a 32-22 win against Independence. For a team that changed coaches, quarterback and much of the returning roster before the start of practice in February, the title is a testament to perseverance as well as skill.
“I really give these guys so much credit because coming in so late in the game, having only a handful of returners who were starting last year, we worked out a lot of kinks and it hasn’t always been pretty,” Mustangs coach Mark Harman said. “We have a lot of things to shore up but the guys on this team have continued to fight, they continue to want to get better, and that’s why we’re sitting where we are.”
When coach Scott Chadwick stepped away for a college job at Maryland and quarterback Drake Maye and a several Division I-caliber recruits opted to enroll in college, the Mustangs weren’t expected to do much, but here they are, still on top of the heap.
Lenhoff had a major hand in it, hitting 13-of-25 passes for 220 yards and three scores against Independence, which led 15-11 in the third quarter before Myers Park reeled off 21 unanswered points – all on second-half touchdown passes.
“It hasn’t been an excuse,” Lenhoff said. “When we come on the sideline, it’s ‘hey, we can’t lose this game.’ We’ve worked too hard, our coaches put us in position, so we’ve got to go out and win this game and we made plays when we had to.”
The Mustangs have come a long way since February’s cold, and they’re on track to perhaps pull off a postseason surprise or two.
“You always put faith in the kids and if the kids believe in what you’re doing, they’re going to believe it’s possible,” Harman said. “I try to make sure as a staff we don’t talk negatively, ‘oh, poor us.’ We just talk about the opportunities, and I think they took that.”
Said Lenhoff: “It’s just been fun to experience being thrown in, just in and make a play. We came out here and no one really understands we were supposed to be a .500 team, we were supposed to win three games and that’s it. We’re league champs, and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”
Three who mattered
Lucas Lenhoff: Myers Park quarterback hit 10-of-15 second-half passes for 184 yards and three scores to rally the Mustangs against the determined Patriots.
Bryson Tisdale, WR, Independence: Caught eight passes for 125 yards, including a 55-yarder on a fake punt to put the Patriots in front 15-11 in the third quarter.
Wilson Major, LB, Myers Park: He blocked a Patriots punt and fell on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown tied the game at 8-all, and more important, sparked the Mustangs in the second quarter.
Independence 8 0 7 7-22
Myers Park 0 11 14 7-32
I-Arnold Taylor 3-yard run (Chayce Jordan pass from Josiah Perez)
MP-Wilson Major blocked punt recovery (Jacob Newman run)
MP-Win Byerley 25 field goal
I-Bryson Tisdale 55-yard pass from Josh Isedah (Ryan Howe kick)
MP-Camarion Thornton 17-yard pass from Lucas Lenhoff (Thomas Walker kick)
MP-Ayden Burkey 30-yard pass from Lenhoff (Walker kick)
MP-Isaac Hill 27-yard pass from Lenhoff (Walker kick)
I-Taylor 6-yard run (Howe kick)