This Friday, the Prairie City-Monroe Mustangs will have their home opener when the Pella Christian Eagles make the drive out to Monroe.
Pella Christian boasted a dominating effort in last season’s matchup, winning 44-6. The Mustangs return home following a victory over Knoxville, and will be looking to redeem that loss of a year ago.
Head coach Greg Bonnett liked what he saw from his group in the victory over the Panthers, but he wants to see a more complete effort in the team’s first home game of the season.
“We need to do a better job of finishing the game,” he said. “We got up 21-0, and we sort of started playing like the game was already over. The guys need to play hard regardless of the score, because we almost let a win get away from us late.”
On a hot August night with temperatures reaching 88 degrees right around game time, the Mustang football team took down the Knoxville Panthers by holding on to an early lead. In a game that may have been closer than it should have been, the Mustangs’ early 21-0 advantage allowed them to lock up the game early in the 21-13 win in Knoxville.
“I think we were well acclimated to the heat, and that certainly played to our advantage. We only had one player leave due to cramps. They had a few,” PCM coach Bonnett said.
The rushing game was the key for the Mustangs. Lacking a very experienced or accurate passer, the Mustangs will be forced to lean on the ground game. The trust coach Bonnett put into his rushers — particularly senior running back Blake McWilliams — paid off on Friday night. McWilliams carried the ball 29 times, rushing for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
“It would be nice to see that every game,” Bonnett said about McWilliams’ impressive stat-line. “He will certainly get the opportunity to carry the ball that many times again. The running game really worked well for us in the first half, getting us that lead.”
The other touchdown belonged to senior Luke Cummings, who rushed four times for six yards and that aforementioned score. Junior Ronnie Marshall had seven carries for 29 yards. Senior Zach Uhlenhopp carries twice for 23 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bonnett mentioned seniors Brandon Charls and Justin Beener as two of the key players for the Mustangs. Charls, a defensive lineman, led all Mustang defenders with his seven total tackles in the game — six solo tackles and one assist — including three tackles for losses. Beener contributed with two tackles of his own, and he also forced two Knoxville fumbles.
“I thought Brandon and Justin really stepped up for us, making big tackles when we needed them to,” Bonnett said. “Brandon applied a lot of pressure to their backfield, and his tackles for loss were huge.
“Justin, one of our outside linebackers, had some key plays including a big tackle on a screen pass that could have broken loose.”
The remainder of the defensive stat sheet reflected a true team effort on that side of the football. Senior Ryan Donahue and Marshall each had six tackles. Rickey Reeve and Jade Coleman each had five stops. Luke Pendroy and Jaret Maggard contributed with four tackles apiece. Pendroy and Uhlenhopp each intercepted passes, while sophomore Chase Wilkie recovered a fumble