With their backs against the wall in terms of playoff qualification, the Creston/O-M Panthers responded in a big way Friday with a 49-21 victory over Glenwood.
The win improves the Panthers to 3-2 in Class 3A District 1 — now in the position of trying to move up within the top four spots with a victory over Lewis Central in two weeks — and 5-2 overall. Glenwood falls out of contention at 1-3 in district play and 3-4 overall.
Meanwhile, Harlan handed Lewis Central its first district loss with a 24-14 victory in a battle for first place. Perry defeated Atlantic 48-27 in a game involving teams at the bottom of the standings, and ADM traveled out of the district in a 45-28 loss to Newton.
So, while Harlan leads the district at 4-0, LC and ADM are tied for second at 3-1, with Creston/O-M fourth at 3-2. LC still has games against Glenwood and Creston/O-M, while ADM faces Perry and Harlan. If Creston/O-M beats LC, a possible logjam of teams at 4-2 could come down to the point differential tiebreaker to determine placings, if none of the teams own victories over each of the others.
This week, the Panthers play a non-district game at home against Winterset (3-4), a 56-37 loser Friday to Oskaloosa.
The Panthers set the tone early Friday night by scoring on their first play from scrimmage. Taking a direct snap, Trevor Frain bolted 55 yards on a trap play for the game’s first touchdown.
Frain was alone in the backfield taking a direct snap, as quarterback Brandon Phipps went in motion. That action left a hole in the Rams’ defense.
“They were in man coverage, and when Brandon went outside, their middle linebacker chased him,” Frain said. “So, they had no linebackers there at all. I had a hole I could get three people through.”
Both Frain and Phipps said the play was successful despite a mixup at the line of scrimmage.
“Some linemen were asking, was it 31 trap or 30 trap?” Phipps said. “So, they ended up blocking the wrong way. But the middle was wide open. Coach (Darrell) Frain made a good call.”
From that point on, Glenwood was playing from behind the entire night.
Frain also scored on a 15-yard run and 15-yard pass from Phipps as the Panthers took a 21-0 lead. He went left on the short-yardage “tank” formation behind lead blockers Adam Baker and Wyatt Thompson, and used some deception for the pass reception.
“Everybody flew to the pitch man (Adam Baker),” Phipps said. “It was a naked (bootleg) and Frain just chip blocked for a second and then was wide open. They had a guy blitzing.”
It became 28-0 on a 5-yard run by Baker, the first of his three touchdowns. Baker finished with 140 yards rushing on 17 carries. He later scored on runs of 66 and 24 yards.
“On the 66-yarder, right when he hit the hole I just threw my arms up in the air,” Phipps said. “I knew that was a touchdown. That 25 kid (Spencer Smith) was fast for them, and he outran him.”
Frain finished with 67 yards rushing on seven carries. While the Panthers relied mostly on a running attack and special teams plays, Phipps finished 6-of-8 passing for 48 yards and one TD.
Quarterback Corey Bertini was the catalyst for the Rams, compiling 160 yards rushing and two touchdowns and also passing for 155 yards and a TD. But, right after his second TD cut the Panther lead to 28-14 in the third quarter, Bryce Briley fielded the Glenwood kickoff and raced 95 yards up the left side for a touchdown to make it 35-14.
“There was a seam up the left side,” Briley said. “I didn’t look back or anything. I didn’t want anyone to catch me.”
Later in the third quarter, Tayler Pettit pressured Bertini on two consecutive plays, followed by an interception by Gavin Leith.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Baker raced 66 yards to make it 42-14. Baker’s 24-yard TD scamper in the fourth quarter accounted for the final score at 49-21 after Bertini had thrown to Gage Shatava for a touchdown.
Briley also had an interception and 22-yard return in the game. Frain had 17 total tackles and Levi Eblen, switching from outside linebacker to inside linebacker in the absence of Seth Maitlen from injury, accounted for 15 total tackles.
Head coach Brian Morrison said Eblen was a quick study at the new position, as Seth Maitlen was held out with an ankle injury. It was a tough task, as this Ram offense posted 38 points against ADM and 24 against district leader Harlan.
“We had a kid who had an hour and a half to learn how to play inside linebacker, and I thought he did a heck of a job,” Morrison said. “Especially against that run game. Every game they’ve played has a been a track meet. They’re explosive. Our job was to keep the ball in front of us, and I thought we did a good job of that.”
Conner Pals was 7-of-7 on extra points to successfully cap all of the Panther scoring drives. Morrison said it was a good night for the offense, as well.
“Our offensive game plan was right on,” he said. “Our assistants did a heck of a job throughout the week, coaching our kids up, and the kids executed tonight. Our kids played smart and played hard.”
After each of the scores while building a 28-0 lead during the first half, the coaches stepped up their intensity to remind the players to maintain their focus, saying “(play like) it’s 0-0!”
“We’re trying to not change the mindset of our players,” Morrison said. “We tell them not to relax, because when you relax bad things happen. That’s a mentality we’re trying to teach.”
On the other side of the field, Glenwood coach Cory Faust was disappointed. The 1997 graduate of Nodaway Valley, a highly successful coach at AHST before taking over the Rams, said everyone in the program has to get better.
“You have to credit Creston,” Faust said. “They have a good team and they do a nice job. On offense, we had some breakdowns in pass protection and we put the ball on the ground a lot. We’re really struggling to stop the run on defense. We’re just not playing very well right now, and we have to coach better. Have to play better.”
Glenwood finishes with home games against Lewis Central and Atlantic.
Creston/O-M 49, Glenwood 21
Points by quarter
Glenwood 0 7 14 0 — 21
Creston/O-M 7 21 14 7 — 49
C/O-M — Trevor Frain 55 run (Conner Pals kick), 9:02
C/O-M — Frain 15 run (Pals kick), 7:06
C/O-M — Frain 15 pass from Brandon Phipps (Pals kick), 6:40
C/O-M — Adam Baker 5 run (Pals kick), 3:18
G — Corey Bertini 1 run (Brandon Bichel kick), :31
G — Bertini 48 run (Bichel kick), 8:25
C/O-M — Bryce Briley 95 kickoff return (Pals kick), 8:07
C/O-M — Baker 66 run (Pals kick), 3:21
G — Gage Shatava 25 pass from Bertini (Bichel kick), :25
C/O-M — Baker 24 run (Pals kick), 3:15
Glen ... C/O-M
First downs 23 ... 13
Rushes-yards 52-238 ... 35-258
Passing yards 155 ... 48
Total yards 393 ... 306
Punts-avg. 3-40.3 ... 3-35.0
Return yards 48 ... 193
Fumbles-lost 4-1 ... 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-65 ... 6-73
RUSHING — C/O-M: Adam Baker 17-140, Trevor Frain 7-67, Brandon Phipps 7-47, Conner Pals 1-4. Glen: Corey Bertini 23-160, Spencer Smith 13-45, Gage Shatava 7-33, Logan McCorkle 2-8, Zach Kirkpatrick 2-7.
PASSING — C/O-M: Phipps 6-8-0 for 48 yards. Glen: Bertini 13-22-2 for 155 yards.
RECEIVING — C/O-M: Jesse Rathe 3-19, Frain 2-18, Maxx Walters 1-11. Glen: Shatava 3-36, Cob Baker 2-25, Brandon Bichel 3-22, McCorkle 1-17, Smith 1-10.
PUNTS-AVG. — C/O-M: Gavin Leith 3-35.0. Glen: Bichel 3-40.5.
TACKLE LEADERS (solo-assists) — C/O-M: Trevor Frain 5-12, Levi Eblen 4-11, Leith 2-8, J. Rathe 3-6, Bryce Briley 5-4, Alex Chapman 1-6, Jordan Thompson 0-6, Baker 0-5, Cory Rathe 0-5, Walters 2-1, Cameron Leith 0-3, Jake Miller 0-3, Spencer Wray 0-2, Tayler Pettit 1-1.
INTERCEPTIONS — Leith 1, Briley 1.
PASS BREAKUPS — Frain 1, Walters 1.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES — Leith 1.
TACKLES FOR LOSS (YARDS) — Pettit 1-6, J. Rathe 1-5.
SACKS — Pettit 1.