ADAIR — Fifth-ranked Adair-Casey took a big step toward an Eight-Man District 6 title run here Friday with an 85-54 victory over Murray.
The Bombers improved to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in District 6. Murray falls to 4-2 and 3-1.
Beginning with quarterback Matt Barnes being tackled for a safety three minutes into the game, the Mustangs had a rough start Friday.
Clayton Plowman, who a week earlier became Iowa’s Eight-Man career rushing leader, returned the kickoff after the safety to the Mustang 10-yard line. He then carried for a 10-yard touchdown and all-state kicker Emmitt Wheatley kicked the extra point for a quick 9-0 advantage.
Coming into the game, Plowman already had 1,088 yards in five games, and 6,464 for his career to rank fourth all-time nationally. He needed 495 to move into second on the all-time national list.
But, Murray’s defense did a good job of containing Plowman’s rushing game throughout a hard-fought 34-yard half. However, not the same could be said for the Mustangs’ pass defense.
The game became a track meet, matching A-C’s passing against the big-play bursts of Murray running back Andrew Rider.
Barnes actually got Murray on the board first, scrambling 65 yards for a touchdown, with Brandon Short’s kick making it 9-7.
The Mustangs took a 20-17 lead after one period, before trailing 44-34 at halftime.
At halftime, Rider already had 189 yards rushing and three TDs on 13 carries, while Plowman managed only 34 on 10 attempts.
A-C’s lead was built primarily through the air, as Wheatley had three TD receptions and 155 yards receiving at the break.
Plowman returned the second-half kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown to set the tone for the second half, pushing A-C in front, 50-34. The Bombers led 65-46 after three periods.
For the game, Rider had 277 yards on 24 carries and rushing touchdowns of 20, 65, 46 and 55 yards. He also had a 77-yard punt return for an apparent touchdown that would have pulled him within one of the national record for punt return touchdowns, but it was nullified on a holding penalty.
Barnes connected with Sam Rockhold for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Seth Nerness added a 1-yard touchdown and late in the game reserve Jack Jones bolted 51 yards for a touchdown.
Plowman finished with 112 yards rushing on 19 carries and three touchdowns of 10, 6 and 43 yards, in addition to his kick return TD. Charlie Terry had receiving touchdowns of 59 and 35 yards and a 40-yard interception return that pushed the score to 77-46 with six minutes left.
Quarterback Traeton Jensen had a huge game for the Bombers, totaling seven touchdowns on the night. He had a 12-yard rushing touchdown and completed 10 of 13 passes for 392 yards and six TDs.
There were 12 touchdowns of more than 35 yards in the three-hour game. The game consisted of the teams trading scoring plays until Adair-Casey had three quick scores in a three-minute span just before halftime, followed by the second-half kick return.
“We just couldn’t overcome that cluster of scores they got,” Murray coach Keith Shields said.
The array of big-play weapons was tough for the Murray defense to contain. Last spring, Jensen, Wheatley and Plowman formed three-fourths of the state’s Class 1A sixth-place 4x100 relay team in 44.72. Individually, Plowman was 12th in the 100 in 11.65, just behind Murray’s Nerness 10th in 11.62.
“You have to force them to drive the ball downfield and not give up big plays,” Shields said. “Wheatley on the outside is tough. You have to be consumed with Plowman, the Jensen kid can take off, and Terry coming the other way on a counter is a threat. They are all good athletes. Until we gave up a couple of big runs in the second half, we were doing a good job with Plowman.”
But, play-action passing to Wheatley and Terry carved up the Mustang defense repeatedly during the first three periods.
“We knew they were going to load up the box on Plowman, and we do have a lot of athletes,” A-C coach Wade Anderson said. “Jensen threw some great balls. It helps having an all-state running back like Clayton to play-fake with.”
Barnes settled in to improve Murray’s passing attack as the game went along, but he was slowed by a hip injury suffered during the game. He completed five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown, with Sam Rockhold catching three passes and Matt Rockhold two.
Rider averaged 10.7 yards per carry on 26 attempts and Barnes added 77 yards on the ground. Anderson said the defense has to improve for the Bombers to achieve their goals this season.
“Rider is a great athlete and makes plays,” Anderson said. “We have to correct our back side. We’re over-pursuing a little bit and not closing down. Letting someone put 54 points on the scoreboard is not what we’re looking to do.”
Having Wheatley boom most of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks was a key in nullifying the return capability of Murray’s Rider and Nerness.
In reflection, Shields was proud that his team fought back from an early deficit to take the lead.
“I was proud of the way our guys responded there in the first first quarter,” Shields said. “It feels a little like two years ago when we came up here and lost, the came back in the playoffs and beat them in a great game. Although, we felt better tonight that were in the game better from the get-go.”
In the 2011 campaign, A-C dominated early in an 80-40 victory in the regular season. Murray gained revenge in the quarterfinals, 70-54, to earn the school’s first trip to the UNI-Dome in a state runner-up campaign. Last year Murray again beat the Bombers in the playoffs, 60-43, on the way to a state semifinal appearance.
Anderson knows a return engagement is possible again.
“They are a great team, and we know they’re going to make some noise in the playoffs,” Anderson said, “and we’d like to make some noise, too. If we run into each other down the road, it will be another great battle.”
Likewise for Shields, who takes his team to winless Moravia this week.
“Our heads are down a little bit now,” he said. “I’d be disappointed if they weren’t. Every loss should sting. But how are we going to respond to that? That’s what we’ll look for next week.”
Adair-Casey 85, Murray 54
Murray 20 14 12 8 - 54
Adair-Casey 17 27 21 20 - 85
A — Safety, Murray QB tackled in end zone, 8:25
A — Clayton Plowman 10 run (Emmit Wheatley kick), 8:10
M — Matt Barnes 65 run (Brandon Short kick), 7:55
A — Wheatley 56 pass from Traeton Jensen (Plowman run), 7:42
M — Andrew Rider 20 run (Short kick), 2:22
M — Rider 65 run (kick failed), :39
A — Wheatley 65 pass from Jensen (run failed), 11:50
M — Seth Nerness 1 run (kick blocked), 8:22
A — Charlie Terry 59 pass from Jensen (run failed), 5:06
A — Wheatley 68 pass from Jensen (Wheatley kick), 2:49
A — Plowman 6 run (Plowman run), 2:09
M — Rider 46 run (Matt Rockhold pass from Matthew Barnes), 1:58
A — Plowman 76 kickoff return (run failed), 11:47
A — Terry 35 pass from Jensen (Wheatley kick), 9:45
M — Rider 55 run (pass failed), 9:10
A — Jensen 14 run (Plowman), 8:01
M — Sam Rockhold 11 pass from Barnes (pass failed), 1:53.
A — Plowman 18 pass from Jensen (kick blocked), 6:13
A — Terry 41 interception return (run failed), 5:59
A — Plowman 51 run (Terry run), 2:55
M — Jack Jones 51 run (Dustin Teas pass from Thane Simmons), :19.
Rushing: M - Andrew Rider 26-277, Matt Barnes 17-77, Jack Jones 4-70, Seth Nerness 9-23. A-C: Clayton Plowman 22-156, Traeton Jensen 8-6, Charlie Terry 2-1.
Passing: M - Barnes 5-17-1 for 52 yards; Thane Simmons 1-1-0 for 3 yards. A-C: Jensen 10-13-0 for 392 yards.
Receiving: M - Sam Rockhold 3-31, Matt Rockhold 2-21, Dustin Teas 1-3. A-C: Emmit Wheatley 4-206, Charlie Terry 3-115, Clayton Plowman 3-71.
Tackles (solo-assists): M - Sam Rockhold 9-4, George Barber 6-2, Barnes 4-2, Seth Nerness 3-2, Jack Jones 1-5, Scott Funke 1-6.
Tackles for loss: M - S. Rockhold 2, Barber 2, Nerness 1.
Sacks: M - S. Rockhold 1, Barber 1.
Fumble recoveries: M - Jones 2.