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November 17, 2003Football is a team sport, but for much of Palestine's bi-district match-up with Hallsville Friday night, it seemed that there were only two people on the field.
In what was the last game in the heralded career of the now legendary Adrian Peterson, nothing epitomized the contest more than four words repeated over the public address system a mind-numbing amount of times: "Peterson stopped by Muckelroy."
For Peterson, the night saw individual brilliance and a heartbreaking team defeat. Leading 19-7 in the fourth quarter, Palestine saw their lead evaporate following a cloud of costly fumbles and missed opportunities.
Peterson's effort was thwarted by a great performance by junior linebacker Roderick Muckelroy, who hounded Peterson all night, and scored the game-tying touchdown, before the extra point gave Hallsville the deciding point for a 20-19 victory.
After the game, the Hallsville players stacked up the line to talk to Peterson, wanting to shake his hand after he had waged a war against them for the previous four quarters.
The Hallsville players got their last glimpse of the legend they had felled, and celebrated with their fans. Peterson sat with a towel over his head and pined for the end of his dynasty.
If it is possible, Peterson is even more impressive in person than he is on his highlight reel. Specifically, his power just doesn't come through on the film.
Peterson is built like a stud running back is supposed to be built. He has thick, powerful upper legs, and a good upper body frame that should add more weight with ease. He probably isn't quite 6-foot-3, which might be good news for him as a running back. There is no doubting that Peterson is a big guy, and he moves that size with alarming velocity.
Peterson does run a little high, but when you hear the very audible pop of a collision, and see him continue down field, you get a sense for just how powerful this player can be when he gets his pads down.
Peterson finished the night with 37 carries for 241 yards and three touchdowns, including a death-defying Seneca Wallace-esque touchdown in the second quarter. Those stats don't begin to tell how impressive Peterson was.
Peterson was shockingly quicker in person. While there was never any doubting his speed, he actually displayed a little more wiggle than most would expect. He showed the ability to make people miss with a very quick spin move, and he made people grasp at him with arm tackles, an impossible way to tackle the big back.
Peterson ran tough for most of the night, taking on tacklers and running them over, and busting free of a few occasions, displaying his prodigious breakaway speed.
The only problem with Peterson's mentality on the field is born of being too used to being "the offense." At times, he tries a little too hard to make the big play, knowing that if he doesn't do it, he won't be getting much help. Sometimes, as his second touchdown run displayed, it works out for him. Other times, he takes a negative play on a carry that could be a minimal-medium gain.
This habit could cost him at the collegiate level, but there are few doubts about his ability to adapt once he finds a system where he is not the whole show.
On film, there is no way of gauging his competitive spirit, but after seeing him in person, it is unquestionable. More than anything, Peterson wants to win. He was absolutely inconsolable after the game.
He played the whole game with the tenacity and vigor befitting his five-star ranking. Even more than all the physical attributes, his competitiveness might be his most impressive asset.
MEET MR. MUCKELROY
As a senior stepped down off the throne as the best player in Texas, a junior put himself on the map.
Roderick Muckelroy was Adrian Peterson's nemesis all night. It seemed the everywhere Peterson went, Muckelroy was there to meet him. Muckelroy made innumerable tackles, as his name came out of the loud speakers ridiculous amount of times. He also ran the ball 11 times for 48 yards and scored the game tying touchdown.
The first good news for Muckelroy is that, unlike his brother, Kendrick, Roderick has some size. He looked to be at least as tall as Peterson, if not a little taller.
He is still a little lean, but he is probably easily over 200 pounds, and should have no problem getting up to linebacker weight. He was the one second level player from Hallsville that Peterson had a hard time shrugging off.
The second bit of good news is that Muckelroy, like his brother, can find the ball, and can run to it. Muckelroy isn't a track star, but his snaps at running back displayed good lateral quickness and acceleration. Overall, he is a very good, though not exceptional athlete.
On defense, he was always around the ball. He was good moving through traffic down the line, and showed no shyness when it came to making a tackle. He threw his weight around, regardless of who was coming at him. He seemed to make sure tackles, wrapping up well most of the time.
If there is a time to make your name as a linebacker, it is when you are playing against the number one running back in the country. A lot of plays seemed to funnel to Muckelroy, but the young linebacker made several tackles in pursuit as well.
Overall, it would have been difficult for him to perform much better. He was a force on defense, and was the key to Hallsville's come-from-behind win.
It is impossible to say how Muckelroy is in pass defense, as Palestine completed only two of nine passes on the night. However, Muckelroy will receive a huge test this weekend against 4A behemoth Ennis and quarterback Graham Harrell. If he can answer the bell again, he will be a blue chip recruit next season.
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