Clarinda and Creston/O-M are coming off vastly different opening-week experiences heading into their non-district encounter Friday night at Panther Field.
While the Panthers were rolling to a 50-20 victory at Chariton in a game featuring 10 touchdowns and 646 total offensive yards, Clarinda was fallling 7-3 at home to Atlantic.
The only touchdown of the game came midway through the third quarter, when Trojan quarterback Joe Walker connected with sophomore receiver Brendan Holmes on a quick 25-yard strike.
Atlantic ran 64 offensive plays to Clarinda’s 43, killing six minutes off the clock down the stretch with a lengthy drive to seal the victory. Atlantic outgained the Cardinals in total yards, 238 to 155.
Clarinda, under new head coach Mark Schilb, didn’t attempt a pass until falling behind in the second half, and finished 0-for-2 through the air in the game.
The Panther defense will take a step back in time Friday, facing the single-wing offense installed by Schilb, a former Clarinda quarterback. It features a “spinner back” instead of a quarterback, and the center may snap it to either him or the running back, who stand together in shotgun formation.
Every play is designed to create misdirection and deception. The quick break of the huddle with moving parts can create confusion for the defense.
Schilb, a 1991 graduate of Clarinda High School, is trying to energize the program that is coming off a 1-8 season, including a 49-7 loss to Creston/O-M last season. Schilb most recently coached at Oskaloosa, with head coaching jobs at Sigourney and Perry before that.
“They have very big kids who can block and move,” said Atlantic coach Nick Ross. “Up front, they can present some very real challenges.”
Having watched video of the loss to Atlantic, Creston/O-M coach Brian Morrison agrees. He said six turnovers trying to execute the new offense hampered the Cardinals, who were moving the ball against the Trojans.
“They put the ball on the ground and that hurt them,” Morrison said. “It’s not an easy offense to run, and they will get better with that. They are good up front.”
The Panthers’ defensive philosophy isn’t based on watching the ball in the backfield, Morrison said, so all of the spinning and deception behind the line of scrimmage shouldn’t adversely affect the team’s ability to contain the Cardinals.
“Our linebackers read guards and tackles and we don’t look in the backfield,” Morrison said. “At least, we’re not supposed to. Our defensive linemen don’t shoot gaps. They react to their keys. So, that will help us a ton. It’s just a matter of adjusting to their unbalanced formation, which they are in probably 99 percent of the time.”
Dakota Woods was the senior playmaker at quarterback for Clarinda a year ago, but several running backs, wingbacks and receivers return this season. Seniors Troy Aldrich, who played some quarterback a year ago, and Blake Luna are threats at wingback in the new offense.
Other returnees are Luke Strong and Nate Jones at running back and recevier Jett Kettwick, who had three kick return touchdowns a year ago as well as leading the team in tackles.
Junior Christian Lauritsen takes over the spinner back position, which starts most of the offensive plays. He will run some power plays inside, especially after misdirection fakes to other backs.
“Defensively, they are about the same as they were,” Morrison said. “They run some 4-4 cover three, and in passing situations we’ll see some 4-3 cover two. They have some big, physical guys.”
Last year, the Panthers racked up 231 rushing yards in the first half alone, taking a 42-0 lead. Creston/O-M finished with 441 total yards while holding Clarinda to 45 net yards.
Among the Panther returnees who scored in that game, Trevor Frain had a 42-yard touchdown run and caught a pass in the flat for a 67-yard scoring play. Maxx Walters scored on a 15-yard reverse, and this year’s quarterback, Brandon Phipps, carried for a 21-yard TD run.
Creston/O-M attempted only 11 passes in that game.
The Panthers had a good run-pass mix in their opening victory at Chariton, as Phipps had three TD passes, Alex Nielsen added another, and Adam Baker made his varsity debut at running back with 159 yards and a touchdown.
“I told the kids, I think it’s the best we’ve looked in four years in our opener,” Morrison said. “We were physical and executed well. We have some penalties and turnovers to clean up, but in actual execution of the offensive plays and lining up properly and reacting on defense, it was really good.”
The freshman game kicks off at 4:45 p.m. followed by varsity at 7:30. Hot conditions are expected again, with highs in the low 90s Friday.