GLENWOOD — It wasn’t the exciting, big-play victory like a week earlier in homecoming action against Harlan, but the Creston/O-M Panthers prevailed in a defensive struggle against Glenwood Friday, 14-0, at Ram Memorial Field.
The Panthers scored once each in the first and third quarters in securing their first shutout victory of the season. Bryce McIlravy scored on a 1-yard run late in the first quarter after making a 21-yard pass reception from Luke Neitzel on the drive. Two turnovers — an interception pass at Glenwood’s 8-yard line, and a fumble near midfield — stymied the Panthers in the first half, which ended 6-0.
Neitzel scored on a 30-yard run late in the third period. In the fourth quarter, the Panthers staged a defensive goal-line stand as Glenwood’s run up the middle by fullback Derek Jones on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line was stopped 18 inches from the goal line.
The win was costly, however, for a Creston/O-M team already hampered by injuries. McIlravy, the senior running back and the primary replacement for senior cornerback Caleb Thompson, who broke a lower-leg bone against Harlan, is now sidelined by his own fractured bone.
McIlravy was helped off the field after a fourth-quarter carry with an injury to his left ankle. Tests conducted Saturday revealed a fracture in the base of his fibula, near the ankle.
“The ankle is broke and ligaments are torn,” McIlravy said Sunday. “I’m having surgery on Monday. They’re putting plates and screws in.”
Recovery time is estimated at eight to 12 weeks, putting him at about the Christmas break of the basketball season.
“He planted and got hit, and it was an inside roll, which is never good,” coach Brian Morrison said. “I knew it wasn’t a typical ankle sprain. He’s a tough kid, and he wasn’t able to put any pressure on it.”
Morrison said Sunday the plan on offense is to move fullback Trevor Frain to McIlravy’s running back position, with others such as Keenan Reese and Gavin Leith moving into the picture, depending on the formation. On defense, sophomore Alex Nielsen, Reese and receiver Maxx Walters will figure in the cornerback mix.
With the return this week of lineman Jordan Thompson from injury, Morrison said guard Adam Baker, a former running back, will get some practice repetitions at fullback for depth purposes.
“A lot of teams in our district are banged up pretty good right now,” Morrison said. “We have to find solutions and put kids in situations to be successful, and move forward. But we obviously feel bad for Bryce. The loss is tough, no doubt about it. He had a great season, he’s had a great career, and he’ll continue to be one of our leaders as a captain.”
Entering Friday’s game, McIlravy was fifth among district rushers with 537 yards. Neitzel was second with 783 yards, and led the offense on Friday with 170 yards rushing while passing 6-of-11 for 49 yards. McIlravy had two catches for 38 yards. Neitzel also had two more pass interceptions on defense to increase his district-leading total to seven.
At linebacker, Frain was active against Glenwood’s run-oriented offense, finishing with 17 total tackles, including one for loss. Keaton Hulett and Brandon Phipps each had two tackles for losses in halting Glenwood’s outside rushing attack.
One week after both Derek Jones and Spencer Smith surpassed 100 yards against Sergeant Bluff-Luton, the Creston/O-M defense smothered the Rams’ attack. Jones, the feature back, managed 45 yards on 20 carries. Smith had 32 yards on seven carries.
Jones was halted on a goal-line stand by the Panther defense in the fourth quarter, when the Rams were threatening to cut it to a one-score margin. The no-huddle drive from their own 45 reached the Panther 4-yard line. On third-and-goal, Jones picked up 3 yards to just inside the 1-yard line.
On fourth down, Jones was denied by the interior push of the Panther defense. Creston/O-M took over with 5:59 left and drove to the Glenwood 15 before stalling on downs, eating up all but 1:31 in the process.
“The players thought we could get it in there from the half-yard line on that play,” said Glenwood first-year coach Cory Faust. “We just didn’t quite get it in. Give Creston credit. They did an awesome job tonight changing up their fronts, and we just couldn’t get a rhythm going.”
Faust is a 1997 graduate of Nodaway Valley, and played on Bob Daut’s final team there before Daut returned later for a one-year interim stint.
“I owe a lot to coach Daut,” Faust said, referring to his high school coach who died recently of cancer.
Faust had a successful career at AHST of Avoca, making the playoffs six times in nine years at the helm, before moving to Glenwood this year. The Rams are 2-5 overall and 0-4 in a district that has had as many as five teams ranked this season.
“It’s challenging,” Faust said. “Every team is good, but that’s what you want. I told the guys, we’re getting very close to beating good teams.”
It was too close, perhaps, for Morrison, who saw his team squander scoring opportunities with miscues.
“In the first half we left 21 points on the board,” Morrison said. “We had turnovers, a couple times with really good field position.”
On the other hand, his team’s defense was effective at disrupting the unique Ram offense.
“We took away their first threat,” Morrison said. “In the option game, their first threat is the quarterback. In the belly series, their first threat is the dive.”
The Panthers (6-1 overall) now sit atop Class 3A District 1 at 4-1. ADM and Harlan are each 3-1, while Lewis Central and Atlantic stand 2-2 as five teams vie for the coveted four playoff positions. Creston/O-M plays outside the district this week at Winterset, before closing the regular season at home against Lewis Central.
Other key matchups still to take place include Atlantic vs. Harlan, and Harlan vs. ADM. On Friday night, Atlantic defeated Perry, Harlan rebounded to beat Lewis Central 35-10, and ADM dropped a non-district contest against Newton, 17-13.
Atlantic’s Harrison Hoegh surpassed Bret Meyer’s single-season passing record at Atlantic in the Trojans’ 41-6 win over Perry. Hoegh, who threw for 274 yards Friday night, now has 1,899 passing yards. Meyer, who went on to play at Iowa State, had 1,817 passing yards in the Trojans’ championship season in 2002.
Sunday’s Des Moines Register listed Creston/O-M fourth in the Class 3A rankings behind unbeatens Decorah, Sioux City Heelan and Grinnell. Harlan is No. 7. ADM and LC have fallen out of the ratings.