Even though the season ended differently from how they envisioned it, the Creston/Orient-Macksburg Panthers had plenty to celebrate at its postseason awards banquet Sunday evening in the Creston High School commons.
The Panthers finished the season at 7-3 with a 47-20 loss to eventual Class 3A championship game participant Sioux City Bishop Heelan in the opening round of the playoffs.
The season also marked the first time the Panthers ever defeated Harlan in back-to-back seasons.
Creston/Orient-Macksburg encountered a number of injuries over the course of the season, but at no point did the Panthers ever use those injuries as excuses, head coach Brian Morrison said.
“There’s no excuses that can be made about the way things ended up,” Morrison said. “On our team, I didn’t hear them. I heard from people ‘it’s been a great season up until now.’ That’s not the case with these guys. These guys play for four quarters no matter who is in, because they practice together.”
That attitude can be traced back to the great leadership provided by this year’s senior class, Morrison said.
“This class defines being a class. They don’t care about individual awards at all,” Morrison said. “I got that sense three years ago, and they maintained that throughout their three years in the football program. First and foremost, what we need to do juniors, we have to step up and match their leadership, right? These guys lead by example and they don’t belittle you. They help you out.”
This year’s senior class included Briar Evans, Theo Hartman, Keaton Hulett, Bryce McIlravy, Luke Neitzel, Keenan Reese, Nathan Robinson, Kainen Somers, Cole Tanner, Colby Taylor, Caleb Thompson and Kenny Wynn, along with manager Tyler Mood and videographer Garrett Abell.
“This senior class, I’ve been with them for three years as a head coach,” Morrison said. “They really set the example of what I want from our football team and our football program. They respect the youth in the community. You don’t see them in the newspaper. They are good kids in the classroom and outside of the classroom. This entire senior class — outstanding effort, outstanding senior year. Congratulations.”
Morrison said he was very excited at the number of Panther players named to Class 3A District 1’s academic all-district team.
Representing Creston/O-M on that team were Hartman, McIlravy, Neitzel, Somers, Tanner, Taylor and Thompson.
Creston/O-M also placed five players on the district’s first team, four on the second team and had two players earn honorable mention.
“District 1, I think, is a pretty good district, and to be named to any of these teams is an outstanding individual achievement,” Morrison said. “But first and foremost, these players would not be recognized without their teammates. The opposing coaches this year had a lot of respect for our football players.”
Morrison said the ultimate team award for the Panther players, however, is to be voted as a team captain at the conclusion of the season.
“We always do the kids’ vote for the three captains at the beginning of the school year, and then I pick the fourth,” Morrison said. “At the end of the season, we have to verify. Did these guys lead? So, I have the kids vote for the captains at the end of the year. So this right here is, I think, the ultimate team award. It shows what good teams do when you’re led by good people.”
Five players were awarded team captaincy in the postseason vote — Neitzel, McIlravy, Evans, Trevor Frain and Hulett.
Morrison also spent time thanking everyone involved in the Panther season — parents, coaches, families, managers and videographers, media outlets, cheerleaders, the CHS athletic department, Walmart, Hy-Vee and Southwestern Community College.
(* — number of letters)
Seniors — Briar Evans***, Theo Hartman**, Keaton Hulett***, Bryce McIlravy***, Luke Neitzel****, Keenan Reese**, Nathan Robinson**, Kainen Somers**, Cole Tanner***, Colby Taylor*, Caleb Thompson***, Kenny Wynn*.
Juniors — Adam Baker**, Trey Benson*, Cole Crawford**, Levi Eblen**, Trevor Frain***, John Gravlin**, Nathan Haley**, Gavin Leith**, Trevor Luther*, Brandon Phipps**, Jesse Rathe**, Maxx Walters**.
Sophomores — Bryce Briley*, Christian Groumoutis*, Jake Gutschenritter*, McClain Haines*, Sam Hartsock*, Cody Lamaak*, Jake Miller*, Alex Nielsen*, Conner Pals*, Tayler Pettit*, Cory Rathe*, Alex Tamerius*, Jordan Thompson**, Tyson Tucker*.
Managers — Tyler Mood**, Tanner Webb**, Garrett Abell***.
Participation awards — Dillon Bailey, Alex Chapman, Trevor Davis, Chad Lamb, Albert Weis.
Freshmen — Ryan Brown, Brady Clayton, Brock Clayton, Aaron Comstock, Austin Eblen, Kyle Fenton, Jaedon Foreman, Chris Foster, Zach Hoffman, Joey Huntington, Jesse Johnson, Brandon Jones, Aaron Kralik, Brandon Lee, Cameron Leith, Kole Lovely, Seth Maitlen, Trey Mills, Curtis Palmer, Nick Perry, Josh Reed, James Riddle, Zach Smith, Wyatt Thompson, Kyle Wynn.
District 1 awards
Academic — Theo Hartman, Bryce McIlravy, Luke Neitzel, Kainen Somers, Cole Tanner, Colby Taylor, Caleb Thompson.
First team — Cole Tanner, offensive line; Bryce McIlravy, running back; Luke Neitzel, quarterback; Keaton Hulett, defensive line, unanimous; Trevor Frain, linebacker, unanimous.
Second team — Theo Hartman, offensive line; Nathan Robinson, defensive line; Alex Nielsen, punter; Kainen Somers, defensive back.
Honorable mention — Briar Evans, tight end; Brandon Phipps, linebacker.
Defensive MVP — Keaton Hulett, Trevor Frain.
Offensive MVP — Luke Neitzel.
Special Teams MVP — Bryce Briley.
Scout Team MVP — Keenan Reese.
Captains (voted after season) — Luke Neitzel, Bryce McIlravy, Briar Evans, Trevor Frain, Keaton Hulett.