ATLANTIC — In the movie “Any Given Sunday,” we learn that football is a game of inches. The Creston/O-M Panthers knew they were within inches in week one but fell short in overtime at home to Chariton.
Fast forward a week and the Panthers had little trouble after the first quarter in soundly defeating the Atlantic Trojans on the road Friday night, 43-20. The game started almost an hour early due to impending weather and was called with 1:37 remaining due to lightning nearby.
Creston/O-M’s junior signal-caller Eli Loudon had an oustanding night, anchoring his squad’s offensive performance from behind center, accounting for four touchdowns, three on the ground and one through the air.
For the Panthers, this game was all about finishing and finish the Panthers did.
“I think tonight we finished well. Against Chariton, we had troubles in the second half getting the job done,” Loudon said. “We knew we could run the ball well on them and just had to stick with what we knew we could do well. We just stuck to the gameplan.”
Leading 20-6 at halftime, the Panthers opened the third quarter with a clock-chewing drive built on tough running and short passes that was ultimately capped by a Loudon 3-yard run. He also ran in the 2-point conversion for a 28-6 spread. The Trojans quickly punted again, leaving the Panthers with excellent field position, which put them in a spot where Rylan Luther found the end zone on a 10-yard scamper. Loudon again converted the extra points.
The Panthers opened a 43-6 lead at its widest point on a Loudon 6-yard pass to sophomore Kolby Hulett with 9:32 to go in the game. It was set up by a big fourth down throw to senior receiver Mark Waigand that was hauled in at the Trojans’ 2-yard line.
“I loved the way our kids finished,” Creston/O-M head coach Brian Morrison said. “When we had our starting units out there throughout the third quarter, we saw good things on offense and defense.”
The Panthers turned the ball over on their opening drive after Atlantic punted on its first possession. Trojan senior Zade Niklassen fell on top of a Creston/O-M fumble but Atlantic fumbled its next possession away and it was recovered by Ayden Filer. That set off a drive that was capped by a Cael Kralik catch just shy of the end zone and an ensuing 4-yard Andrew Mills touchdown run. The extra point kick was missed and Creston/O-M led 6-0.
Atlantic chipped its way downfield little by little on its next drive. Senior quarterback Chase Mullenix showed his ability to scramble all over the field, tucking and running, especially in the first half. The Trojans tied the game at 6 with 11:46 to go before intermission when he fired for the end zone and the ball bounced off a teammate and into the hands of senior receiver Sam Granner for the score. Mullenix also ran for 141 yards.
With about seven minutes left in the half, Creston/O-M took over on the Atlantic 29-yard line when sophomore Garon Wurster scooped up a Mullenix fumble. It set up a quick three-play scoring drive where Loudon ran in for a 17-yard score and a 13-6 lead.
A big throw from Loudon to sophomore Cael Kralik, who was at the 6-inch line inside 30 seconds remaining in the first half, set up Loudon, who then punched in the score. Kralik added the kick for a 20-6 halftime lead.
Morrison exclaimed after the game that first half takeaways his team collected were because the Panthers never gave up. Despite Mullenix’s proven ability to extend plays with his feet, the Panthers were able to clamp down and get turnovers that were instrumental to the win.
“No doubt, they had some big plays then came back and turned the ball over. That’s not good when you get the ball in the red zone then do that. We’ve done that before,” Morrison said. “Things kind of lined up. If you look at our turnovers and how they happened, our kids don’t quit. If a big play happens, so what, go after the football. Our kids did that. That’s why those things happen. We just don’t give up.”
While the biggest lead Creston/O-M held was 43-6, the Trojans did score twice more on Panther reserves, the first time on a Mullenix pass to his younger brother, Collin, from 37 yards and the second time on a 1-yard Tyler Moen run.
UP NEXT — Creston/O-M goes to work this week in preparation for a home stand with Carlisle. The Wildcats dropped a 42-7 game last Friday to Lewis Central after winning 25-20 in week one against Winterset.
To pocket a win against Atlantic in the Trojans’ home opener was satisfying for Morrison. The Trojans, who are in their first year as a member of Class 2A, had soundly beaten Saydel in week one.
“Watching Atlantic on film, they’re a good football team, a quality program — they have been for years. We knew it’d be a tough environment and I thought our kids competed hard from the get go and I don’t think they slowed down from the first, second, third and fourth quarters,” Morrison said. “I’m excited about the ways our team competed against a quality program.”
Creston/O-M 43, Atlantic 20
Points by quarter
C/O-M 6 14 16 7 — 43
Atl 0 6 0 14 — 20
C/O-M — Andrew Mills 4 run (kick failed), 3:09
Atl — Sam Granner 25 pass from Chase Mullenix (kick failed), 11:46
C/O-M — Eli Loudon 17 run (Cael Kralik kick), 6:27
C/O-M — Loudon 1 run (Kralik kick), :15
C/O-M — Loudon 3 run (Loudon run), 5:52
C/O-M — Rylan Luther 10 run (Loudon run), 2:23
C/O-M — Kolby Hulett 6 pass from Loudon (Kralik kick), 9:32
Atl — Colin Mullenix 37 pass from Chase Mullenix (Tyler Moen kick), 7:55
Atl — Moen 1 run (Moen kick), 4:10
First downs 17 14
Rushes-yards 49-236 30-157
Passing yards 141 170
Total yards 377 327
Punts-avg. 2-36.5 2-26.0
Return yards 16 54
Fumbles-lost 4-2 3-1
Penalties-yards 4-23 6-40
RUSHING — C/O-M: Rylan Luther 18-88, Eli Loudon 13-64, Andrew Mills 9-60, Kolby Hulett 4-22, Gavin Gillam 4-2, Mark Waigand 1-0. Atl: Chase Mullenix 17-141, Tyler Moen 9-12, Zade Niklasen 1-6, Connor Pellett 3-(-2).
PASSING — C/O-M: Loudon 10-10-0 for 141 yards; Gillam 0-1-0. Atl: Mullenix 11-17-2 for 170 yards.
RECEIVING — C/O-M: Cael Kralik 3-75, Waigand 3-43, Camden Peterson 2-15, Kylan Smallwood 1-2, Hulett 1-6. Atl: Colin Mullenix 2-63, Moen 4-48, Sam Granner 3-52, Logan Reilly 1-6, Niklasen 1-1.
PUNTS-AVG. — C/O-M: Beau Barncastle 2-36.5. Atl: Chase Mullenix 2-26.0.
TACKLE LEADERS (solo-assists) — C/O-M: Hulett 5-2, Garon Wurster 1-5, Luther 0-4, Logan Shady 1-3, Kralik 2-1, Mills 1-2, Barncastle 0-3, Brance Baker 1-2, Smallwood 1-1, Luke Latham 0-2, Peterson 1-1, Tristan Travis 0-2.
INTERCEPTIONS — C/O-M: Kralik 1, Luther 1.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES — C/O-M: Wurster 1, Ayden Filer 1.
TACKLES FOR LOSS (YARDS) — C/O-M: Wurster 2-(-5), Sam Chapman 2-(-3), Luther 1-(-3), Hulett 1-(-1), James McDonald 1-(-2).
SACKS — C/O-M: Hulett 1.5-(-10), Chapman 1-(-6), McDonald .5-(-8).