Creston/O-M coach Brian Morrison said his team and visiting Perry put on a good show for the large homecoming crowd at Panther Field Friday night.
But it was a little nerve-wracking from the sidelines.
“It was a good win for us,” Morrison said. “It was probably a fun game to watch for the fans.”
The winning drive for the Panthers in a 28-21 victory provided some dramatic moments.
On third-and-eight with 4:03 left in a 21-21 game, senior quarterback Brandon Phipps was flushed out the pocket, running toward the sideline, when he stopped and threw across his body. It was thrown slightly short of the target, but senior receiver Maxx Walters was in a full-extension dive as he cradled the ball for the reception and first down.
The Panthers then needed a big conversion on fourth-and-1 from the Perry 15 with less than 3:00 to go. Trevor Frain took the direct snap in the Panthers’ “tank” formation, and got just enough for the first down.
A few plays later, Phipps faked a handoff and scampered into the end zone on a 7-yard run. Conner Pals’ kick made it a 28-21 lead with 2:13 to go.
Perry attempted to respond behind the leadership of junior quarterback Will Whiton, a 5-11, 175-pound speedster who had earlier run for touchdowns of 41 and 2 yards, and passed to Ben Daniels for a 63-yard score.
On second-and-seven from his own 35, Whiton was flushed out of the pocket and attempted to throw downfield.
Bryce Briley, playing safety in place of the injured Alex Nielsen, camped under it for the interception that sealed the Panthers’ victory.
The play completed a second-half comeback after Whiton had found Daniels alone for a scoring strike that gave the Bluejays a 21-14 lead with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
“In the second half we played well defensively except for the play where he (Whiton) scrambled outside and caught us on our coverage,” Morrison said. “We tied it, and then looked really good on our last drive. Maxx Walters probably played the best game I’ve seen him play, ever. Brandon Phipps had an outstanding game. (Adam) Baker and Frain were running hard, we played well up front. Jake Gutschenritter did a nice job of filling in for Jordan Thompson at tackle.”
Thompson was diagnosed with a torn meniscus cartilage in a knee, but was able to play part-time on defense.
“He has a brace and should be able to go the rest of the way for us,” Morrison said.
The news wasn’t so good in two other instances.
Junior linebacker Alex Tamerius, a starter as a sophomore last year, was making his first appearance after knee surgery for an ACL tear suffered last spring in soccer. He’d been medically cleared a week earlier, and put in a full week of practice in preparation for the Perry game.
But, after making two assisted tackles, Tamerius went down with what is believed to be another torn ACL, and months of rehabilitation again.
“That’s really frustrating for Alex, because he put in all that work and felt good going in,” Morrison said. “He’s one of the better defensive players I’ve coached, and to have that happen to him, that’s tough.”
Nielsen, the team’s safety, backup quarterback and all-district punter, planted wrong trying to change direction to make the stop on Whiton’s 41-yard touchdown run with 1:36 left in the first quarter.
He left the game with an ankle injury. He wore an immobilizer boot all weekend along with frequent ice treatments, awaiting X-rays today. Morrison said he didn’t think the ankle was broken, but it’s “sprained pretty good” and he didn’t know of the junior’s status for Friday’s game at Harlan.
Harlan presents the best passing attack the Panthers have faced to date, with senior quarterback Adam Juhl and 6-foot-7 receiver Trey Lansman, who caught the winning touchdown in the Cyclones’ 28-24 victory over Glenwood Friday.
Morrison said Briley played well at safety in Nielsen’s absence.
For the game, Baker rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries for the Panthers, now 2-1 in district play and 4-1 overall. Frain had two rushing touchdowns and Phipps had one.
Phipps was 18-of-23 passing for 213 yards. Walters finished with eight catches for 110 yards.
Whiton totaled 97 yards rushing and 130 passing for Perry, now 1-4 and 0-3.
The even nature of the game is evident in total yardage — a 384 to 345 advantage for the Panthers. It was Creston/O-M’s “cleanest” game to date, with no turnovers and just two penalties for 10 yards. Perry turned it over twice.
“Perry is a good football team, they’ve just lost to some really good people,” Morrison said. “We knew they’d come in and get after it because this was really their last chance to stay in it for the playoffs.”
After beating Greene County, the Bluejays suffered consecutive defeats to ranked Boone and Harlan, and a Glenwood team that had Harlan on the ropes Friday, before traveling to Creston. Perry finishes the district schedule against Lewis Central, Atlantic and ADM.
The Panthers have a tough stretch coming up at Harlan and at home against Glenwood (3-2) before finishing with Winterset and what could be a key district finale against Lewis Central.
The balance in the district is evident by Friday’s scores: Lewis Central 13, ADM 3; Harlan 28, Glenwood 24 and in non-district play, Denison-Schleswig 21, Atlantic 14.
(Kyle Wilson, CNA assistant managing editor, contributed to this story.)
Creston/O-M 28, Perry 21
Points by quarter
Perry 7 6 8 0 — 21
Creston/O-M 7 7 7 7 — 28
Cr — Adam Baker 39 run (Conner Pals kick), 11:37
P — Will Whiton 41 run (Cameron Martinez kick), 1:36
Cr — Trevor Frain 5 run (Pals kick), 10:37
P — Whiton 2 run (kick failed), 6:33
P — Ben Daniels 63 pass from Whiton (Nic Wilhelmi run), 10:37
Cr — Frain 2 run (Pals kick), 4:56
Cr — Phipps 7 run (Pals kick), 2:18
P ... C/O-M
First downs 15 ... 19
Rushes-yards 41-171 ... 33-197
Passing yards 148 ... 213
Total yards 345 ... 384
Punts-avg. 3-39.3 ... 3-29.0
Return yards 55 ... 71
Fumbles-lost 1-1 ... 3-0
Penalties-yards 4-35 ... 2-10
RUSHING — C/O-M: Adam Baker 24-123, Trevor Frain 8-33, Brandon Phipps 8-14, Maxx Walters 1-4. P: Will Whiton 16-97, Seth Stetzel 8-37, Blake Jans 2-17, Nick Wilhemi 2-9.
PASSING — C/O-M: Phipps 18-23-0 for 213 yards. P: Whiton 12-17-1 for 148 yards.
RECEIVING — C/O-M: Maxx Walters 8-110, Jesse Rathe 2-36, Frain 5-34, Levi Eblen 1-24, Christian Groumoutis 1-9. P: Ben Daniels 8-130, Wilhelmi 2-11.
PUNTS-AVG. — C/O-M: Alex Nielsen 1-25.0, Gavin Leith 2-31.0. P: Daniels 3-39.3.
TACKLE LEADERS (solo-assists) — C/O-M: Trevor Frain 1-11, Seth Maitlen 4-7, Cory Rathe 0-9, Jesse Rathe 2-6, Maxx Walters 2-5, Adam Baker 2-5, Alex Chapman 0-5, Conner Pals 1-2, Gavin Leith 0-3, Tayler Pettit 0-3, Levi Eblen 0-3, Wyatt Thompson 0-2, Alex Tamerius 0-2, Bryce Briley 0-2.
INTERCEPTIONS — C/O-M: Briley 1.
PASS BREAKUPS — C/O-M: Pals 1.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES — C/O-M: C. Rathe 1.
TACKLES FOR LOSS (YARDS) — C/O-M: Chapman 2-3, Frain 1-4, C. Rathe 1-4, J. Rathe 1-2, Maitlen 1-2, Baker 1-2, Eblen 1-1.