Creston/O-M outscored Clarinda 21-0 in the second half to pull away to a 42-10 victory over Clarinda in a game littered with penalty flags at Panther Field.
There were 22 penalties called in the game — 11 on each team — with the Panthers assessed 93 yards in infractions, and 90 against the Cardinals.
Holding and false start penalties negated some significant Panther gains — despite a 158 to 115 advantage in total yards — and the final minutes of the game were marred by personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct infractions. There were no player ejections, which would have affected this week’s action.
“Towards the end of the game it did get a little out of hand,” said senior center Nate Haley. “They were talking smack, ripping helmets off. As a captain, you tell everybody to keep their composure. Don’t talk back. Play clean and get out of this game. Refs were threatening to toss guys for the next game.”
Creston/O-M coach Brian Morrison grew frustrated with the situation.
“Our guys were sticking up for each other, which I’m all for, but (conduct penalties) are not what we’re about,” Morrison said. “I think our kids understand. We don’t do that stuff, and we don’t promote it.”
On the positive side, the Panthers controlled their opponent for the second week in a row to enter this week’s district opener against Atlantic with a 2-0 record. Another solid defensive effort limited Clarinda to 87 yards rushing on 36 attempts, with the Cardinals going 2-of-4 for 28 yards passing and two interceptions by Jesse Rathe and Alex Nielsen in the Panther secondary.
It was a successful effort against Clarinda’s unconventional single-wing offense, which relies on direct snaps to a “spinner” back, with crossing motion on nearly every play to create deception.
“It was hard at practice to adjust, but it wasn’t bad on the field (Friday),” said defensive end Tayler Pettit. “I don’t think they were ready for us to adjust in a game like that. We pretty much shut them down.”
Defensive end Alex Chapman said the success began with the work of defensive tackles Jesse Rathe and Jordan Thompson.
“A lot of the times the inside of our line was just stuffing the holes and they were kicking it out,” said Chapman, who finished with eight tackles. “Rathe and Jordan just did a great job. They basically run the same thing every time. You just have to look for the ball.”
Pettit returned a fumbled shotgun snap 33 yards for a Panther defensive touchdown for the game’s final scoring play with 10:02 remaining. Linebacker Trevor Frain had 12 total tackles, including two for losses, along with two short-yardage rushing touchdowns.
Pettit said he simply took advantage of an opportunity while storming into the Cardinal backfield as the shotgun snap was being mishandled.
“It was a bad snap and they kind of bobbled it around,” Pettit said. “The running back tipped it up and I just grabbed it and started running. I was hoping no one would catch me from behind!”
Adam Baker surpassed 100 yards for the second straight week, carrying 16 times for 112 yards and a touchdown. Several other significant gains were called back on penalties.
Long passing TD
Quarterback Brandon Phipps was 5-of-12 passing for 138 yards, including a 52-yard scoring strike to Bryce Briley for the first touchdown of the second half.
“Basically it was play action,” Phipps said. “I was faking to Baker. Our coaches told us at half that their safeties were flying up on run plays, and we just got behind them.I was actually looking to throw the 15-yard out and I saw Briley beat the guy over the top on a post route. Everybody was like, ‘I didn’t know you could throw it that far!’ It felt pretty good.”
Offensive coordinator Darrell Frain said the Cardinals’ defensive scheme played perfectly into a play stretching the field, and with a slight southerly breeze to his back, Phipps let it fly for a streaking Briley in full stride.
“We had the outside guy on a go route, and (another) on a 15-yard out,” Frain said. “The safety came up, and once he realized Briley was by him, it was too late. It was a pretty impressive pass. Briley had to get after it to go get it. That’s a real good sign for us.”
Phipps also had a 10-yard rushing touchdown.
Clarinda scored on a 27-yard field goal after Blake Luna returned a kickoff to the Panther 13-yard line in the first quarter. The Cardinals’ lone touchdown was a 15-yard run by Luke Strong that cut Creston/O-M’s lead to 14-10 in the second quarter.
But from there, the Panthers scored four unanswered touchdowns. The half ended with Creston/O-M in front, 21-10.
“The first half (Clarinda success) was some special teams stuff, and that’s part of football,” Morrison said. “They are physical up front and they will be fine in their (2A) district. We have to eliminate some of those penalties, because we had some big gains negated. But overall, the kids are playing hard, playing physical football. We’re running the football like we thought we could.”
Clarinda junior Christian Lauritsen, who triggered the Cardinals’ single-wing offense from the spinner back position, was taken by ambulance to Greater Regional Medical Center after suffering a lower leg injury in the third quarter. The Panthers suffered no significant injuries.
The night began with a 35-6 victory by the Panther freshman team over the Clarinda freshman/JV squad.
Atlantic, a 47-0 loser to Carroll Friday, visits Panther Field next Friday for the District 1 opener. Atlantic started the season with a 7-3 victory over Clarinda.
“Everybody in our district is pretty even and lost a really good senior class last year,” Morrison said. “It will be a dogfight, starting Friday.”