MURRAY — The Murray Mustangs scored seven touchdowns in the opening quarter Friday evening en route to a dominant 68-7 victory over Ankeny Christian Academy at Mustang Field.
“We couldn’t stop them,” said ACA head coach Fred Buell. “It was obvious early on we were not going to be able to compete with them physically.”
Nothing showed that physical disparity better than a first-quarter punt block by Murray’s Seth Nerness. The 6-foot, 4-inch Nerness powered right past the offensive lineman and blocked the punt with his big right hand.
“I just used speed and power and went right through (the lineman),” Nerness said. “I got close enough to jump, and when I did the ball hit my arm and it was just an Easter egg hunt for the ball after that.”
Nerness hunted the football down, scooped it into his arms and sped 23 yards for the touchdown to give Murray an early 26-0 lead. That was just one of several big plays in the opening quarter for Murray.
Murray’s quick-footed running back and return man Andrew Rider had several big plays in first quarter, scoring three touchdowns including two on punt returns. One return went for 37 yards, the other for 39 yards.
Those were his eighth and ninth punt returns for TD of his career — which moves him into first place all time in Iowa football history (8-player or 11 player). (See related story on Rider’s record-breaking year)
Murray led 47-0 after the first quarter — something Murray head coach Keith Shields was pleased with after the game.
“Getting a good start was something we emphasized all week in practice,” Shields said. “The first quarters the past two weeks have been sluggish. We didn’t play poorly in those first quarters — we just made self-inflicting mistakes. Tonight was a much better start.”
Murray tacked on two more touchdowns in the second quarter including a 57-yard scamper by Nerness and 60-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Rider. Murray led 62-0 at halftime and had run only eight offensive plays.
Murray’s reserves played the entire second half under continuous clock. Ankeny Christian Academy did manage to score a touchdown late when running back Luke Alessio punched it in from 1-yard out.
The stat book best reveals Murray’s dominance Friday evening as Ankeny Christian Academy had negative seven yards on 32 carries. Their offense never crossed midfield against Murray’s starters.
Offensively, Nerness led the Mustangs on the ground — rushing twice for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Murray’s Jack Jones had eight carries for 45 yards. Murray’s Sam Rockhold also took a fake punt 51 yards for touchdown, springing himself free on a powerful stiff arm.
Defensively, Murray had 16 tackles for loss. George Barber led the Mustangs defensive attack with four solo tackles and one assist.
Murray (2-1, 2-0) travels to Grandview Park Baptist 7 p.m. Friday.
Murray 68, Ankeny Christian Academy 7
ACA 0 0 0 7 - 7
Murray 47 15 0 6 68
M — Matt Barnes 18 run (Brandon Short kick), 10:14
M — Andrew Rider 39 punt return (Short kick), 8:50
M — Rider 38 interception return (kick blocked), 8:00
M — Seth Nerness 23 punt block return (kick failed), 6:59
M — Nerness 20 run (Short kick), 6:42
M — Rider 37 punt return (Short kick) 4:42
M — Sam Rockhold 59 run (Short kick), 0:15
M — Nerness 57 run (kick failed), 6:32
M — Safety, snapped out of end zone, 3:18
M — Rider 60 kickoff return (Short kick), 3:08
M — Dylan Callstrom 6 run (pass failed) 11:52
A — Luke Alessio 1 run (Daniel Strong kick), 5:34
Rushing: M - Seth Nerness 2-77, Sam Rockhold 1-59, Jack Jones 8-45, Matt Barnes 1-20, Dylan Callstrom 4-17, Andrew Rider 2-1 ACA - Luke Alessio 23-16, Noah Szymanski 6-(-11), Turner Ellis 1-(-1), Daniel Strong 2-(-11).
Passing: M - Matt Barnes 1-2 for 10 yards, Thane Simmons 1-4 for 14 yards. ACA - Noah Szymanski 5-17 for 44 yards, two INT.
Receiving: M - Sam Rockhold 1-10. ACA - Isaiah Stielow 3-13, Turner Ellis 2-31
Tackles (solo-assists): M - George Barber 4-1, Jack Jones 2-1, one INT, Thane Simmons 3-1, one fumble recovery, Seth Nurness 2-1, one fumble recovery, one punt block for TD, Andrew Rider 2-1, one INT for TD.