The Creston/Orient-Macksburg football team could learn a lot about itself during a non-district game at Carlisle on Friday.
The Panthers are 2-0 heading into Week 3 against the 1-1 Wildcats, who are coming off a 13-3 road loss to Class 3A No. 5 Lewis Central. WOI (ABC 5) made the Creston/O-M contest against Carlisle it’s Friday Night Blitz Game of the Week.
“This game should tell us where we are at,” Creston/O-M head coach Brian Morrison said. “There will be no letdown because our kids realize that we lost the game (to Carlisle) last year 36-7, and we did not have an answer for their run game. The majority of our kids played in that game so they understand the quality if the team we are playing this Friday.”
Kickoff in Carlisle for the freshman game is 4:45 p.m. before the varsity contest at 7:30 p.m.
Tegan Wyckoff is the Wildcats’ top passer and leading rusher. He has completed 18 of 41 throwing attempts for 200 yards with one touchdown and one interception while carrying the ball 22 times for 162 yards and two TDs.
“Carlisle presents quite a few challenges,” Morrison said. “Offensively, they return their quarterback from last year who is a dual threat. He’s a really good runner and is similar in size to the kids from Atlantic and Chariton, who were running backs for both of those teams. He is a competent thrower who has good receivers to throw to so we will have our hands full with him, especially up front.”
Wyckoff’s top target has been Joey Donovan, who has eight receptions for 125 yards, but no touchdowns.
“Carlisle is a physical football team,” Morrison said. “They will have five down linemen with two tight-end sets the majority of the time. So they will have seven guys in the box versus the run and the pass. We will have a big challenge ahead of us, trying to stop their rush attack.”
Morrison is encouraged by what he’s seen this week during practice.
“I feel like we have had a good week of practice so far. The kids understand the importance. It’s a non-district game, but every game counts toward making the playoffs the last two years,” Morrison said.
“This is a fun group (of kids) to coach because they work hard and they fly around. We made some mistakes against Atlantic, but our kids were still flying around and being aggressive. Our kids are very coachable and they play hard. We are undersized at a lot of positions but our kids play the game the right way,” added Morrison.
Eli Loudon has been the leader of Creston/O-M’s passing attack, completing 27 of 48 passes for 625 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Cael Kralik (10 receptions, 330 yards, four TDs) and Luke Latham (six receptions, 148 yards) have been Loudon’s top two receivers.
Rylan Luther is averaging 14.6 yards per carry for the Panthers after getting the ball 10 total times in two games this season.
“I like what we can do, offensively, with our skill guys in different formations,” Morrison said. “We can give some teams some issues. I like the versatility of our group right now. We definitely have that at all levels.
“We show a lot of different formations and different looks at defenses, which I assume would cause issues for those teams. They understand our makeup on offense is to establish the run game. But we feel that, based on what the other team gives us, we have opportunities to do different things besides rush the football in our passing scheme,” added Morrison.
Morrison said Creston/O-M’s offense has been aided by a stronger offensive line.
“I think up front, we have become a better group from last year,” Morrison said. “Those kids have bought into what we do. They’re still making mistakes, but every week we improve in that category. We have to (improve) with the teams we are playing, otherwise we can’t be successful.”
The Panthers trailed 13-0 in the first quarter last Friday at home against Atlantic, but were able to make adjustments in rallying for a 35-13 victory.
“Everything that could go wrong, went wrong in the first part of the first quarter (against Atlantic),” Morrison said. “But our kids, coming off the field either on special teams, offense or defense, they didn’t have starry glaze in their eyes. We keep telling the kids that it’s not about the last play, it’s about the next play, no matter what happens. Unless the kids truly believe that, teams can fold pretty quickly. I felt good about overcoming adversity early on.”
Luther leads Creston/O-M defenders in tackles with 12 1/2 this season. Andy Mills has 12 and Brance Baker features 11 1/2, including a team-high nine solo stops.
Carlisle’s second-leading rusher Nic Goodhue (21 carries, 138 yards) is the Wildcats’ top defensive player with 12 1/2 tackles. Hayden Amos (11 1/2 tackles) and Donovan (8 1/2 tackles) are also in the mix.
“Defensively, Carlisle is really good. They run man coverage in the secondary and they have the athletes who can man-up with some of the better receivers in the state because (Lewis Central) has them,” Morrison said. “I think our receiving corps is as good as it gets in Class 3A, but we’re going to have to break (Carlisle’s) press to get guys open, which is not an easy task. Their inside linebackers are really good and their defensive line is physical good. They should be one of better defenses we will see all year.”