For the most part, the Rebel defense forced the Hoxie Mustangs to grind out yards.
And on the other side of the ball, the Rebel offense was able to gain yards on the ground and by air.
The scoreboard shows that Highland lost to Hoxie 21-7 at Rebel Memorial Field on Sept. 19, but Rebel Head Coach Clay Wiggins found the bright side of the game with conference play starting next Friday.
"It's tough to lose, but we've made some pretty good strides," said Wiggins. "I got back a football team tonight."
Both teams moved the ball well, but ultimately it was two interceptions in the end zone that kept Highland from winning.
Offensively, it's not hard to figure out what the Mustangs are going to do. They let four guys either run up the middle or sweep outside.
Don't look for the ball in the air.
Hoxie threw just six passes, completing only two for 13 yards. The Mustangs just run on first through fourth down and dare you to stop them.
Hoxie started the game with a 15-play drive that came up short deep in Rebel territory. The Mustangs went for it three times on fourth down -- failing to get the first down at the Highland 14.
The Rebel offense reeled off their own 14-play drive with a balanced attack of eight runs and six passes, but gave the ball back on downs at the Mustang 29.
"I was proud to see us have some long drives," said Wiggins. "And I was proud to see us make them have long drives."
And so it went.
It wasn't until 2:19 was left in the first half, when Hoxie quarterback Clay Hart found an opening around the left end and rumbled 55 yards for a touchdown, that either team found the end zone.
Behind the running of fullback Blake Martin, Highland was able to take the ball to midfield on the next possession.
Then quarterback Cannon Davis took over by hitting receiver Caleb Davidson for 22 yards. He missed a pass to receiver Justin Bryant, but was able to hit Davidson again who pitched the ball to Bryant for the near perfect hook-and-lateral.
Bryant was pushed out of bounds at the 11. Davis launched an arcing pass to the corner of the end zone where Davidson evened the score with 13 seconds left in the half.
Thanks to deferring to the second half, Highland was supposed to get the ball first in the second half. However, a fumble by Byrant after a 13-yard return and a recovery by Jeremy Anglin gave the ball to Hoxie at the Reb 23.
Running back Blaine Middlecoff took the ball in from 11 yards out four plays later to regain the lead for Hoxie, 14-7.
Mustang defensive back Cody West intercepted a Davis pass to stop the next Rebel drive.
Rebel defensive line Kyle Jurczyk recovered a Hart fumble at the Mustang 47 to get the ball back.
Running back Michael Tarver excited the Highland crowd with a 23-yard gain. Martin, Tarver and Davis pushed the ball to the 10-yard line.
It worked once, so try it again.
Davis launched the ball into the corner of the end zone, but this time Zach Wilson intercepted the pass.
What happened next can only be described as 'text book running game' by Hoxie. The Mustangs ground out a 19-play drive that featured several four and five yard gains. They boldly ran on fourth down three times. Running back Houston Waldrupe finished the drive with a 15-yard rush against a worn down Rebel defense.
Kick returner Eric Roberts put his head down and took the ensuing kick off 68 yards to the Mustang 12.
Fullback Scott Gatewood picked up a yard. Tarver was held to no gain. Davis hit Bryant for a one-yard gain. On fourth down, Davis went looking for Davidson again in the end zone, but this time Jonathan Quesada picked off the pass.
Highland forced Hoxie (3-0) to punt, but West ended the last second drive by hauling down Davis' fourth interception.
A noteworthy accomplishment, senior safety Matt Schneider recorded 18 tackles against the Mustangs. Gatewood had 10 tackles.
Tarver led the Rebel rushers with 73 yards on 16 carries. Martin added eight carries for 37 yards. Davis was nine-of-20 for 99 yards.
Highland (1-2) will travel to Newport (2-1) on Sept. 26.