MAXWELL — It doesn’t get much better than this.
The district football season has officially kicked off for all of Iowa’s high school football teams, and if Friday night’s showdown between the Collins-Maxwell/Baxter Raiders and Prairie City-Monroe’s Mustangs is any indication, it could be an entertaining year.
The Mustangs got up on the Raiders early, but CMB simply would not bow out of its homecoming game as the Raiders stormed back to make it a close game late. The Mustangs’ ability to run the football was the difference-maker. They won, 35-27.
“It was really good to get the first district win of the season,” PCM coach Greg Bonnett said. “It’s a big weight lifted off my chest.”
The first possession of the game for the Raiders set the tone of the game fairly early. After advancing the ball down the field on a pass interference penalty to start the drive, senior quarterback Zach Samson was intercepted by PCM junior Ricky Reeve, who returned the ball 45 yards for the opening touchdown.
PCM was driving the ball down the field later in the quarter, and with two minutes left in the quarter, the Mustangs faced a fourth and six on their on the CMB 34-yard line. A big tackle in the backfield by Austin Moorman stopped the drive.
On the next drive, PCM would capitalize. Blake McWilliams ran the ball down the field in three carries, and he finished the drive off with a two-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion put PCM ahead 14-0.
With seven minutes left in the half, CMB was trying to force the issue. The Raiders had a fourth and six at the 40-yard line, when they decided to go for it. Ryan Donahue penetrated the defensive line and dragged Samson down for the sack and the turnover on downs.
McWilliams gad 19 yards rushing to set up a play action throw to Reeve for the touchdown, giving Reeve scores from both sides of the football and putting the Mustangs ahead 21-0.
The Raiders were determined to come back down the field, knowing they were going to get the ball following halftime. A pass to Brady Stover followed by an end around to Moorman put the ball at the 48-yard line of PCM. On third and one, Samson bulldozed up the middle for 18 yards. They got down to the nine-yard line in a hurry, but the first three tries on goal were unsuccessful. On fourth down, the Raiders set up a swinging gate play with much of their offensive line lined up on the right side of the field, Stover in the shotgun and Samson playing center. Samson snapped the ball to Stover, who found a wide open Samson for the touchdown, making it 21-7 going into halftime.
On their second possession of the half, the Raiders faked a punt when Stover attempted to find Samson again, but this time the pass fell incomplete. When PCM had the football, they continued to pound on the ground. Zach Uhlenhopp had a big carry to the 21-yard line. McWilliams punched it in from seven yards out to make the score 28-7.
The Raiders came out fast and furious on their next drive. Samson kicked it off with a 25-yard pass to Moorman. He then found Hunter Gunderson for 16. Samson rushed up the middle for seven yards, trucking a PCM defender in the process. Another 20-yard pass to Moorman put the ball on the three-yard line, and Samson ran it in on first and goal.
PCM drove the ball down to its own 41, and faced a third down and three. Moorman had another tackle in the backfield to force a punt. On first and 10, Samson barely missed Bryce Kemp on a pass down the right sideline. He scrambled around on the next play and found Moorman for 27 yards. He rushed up the middle for eight then threw another TD to Moorman to pull within eight.
Strong runs by Logan Gilman and McWilliams sealed the deal for the Mustangs, who drove it down for a touchdown. CMB got one “garbage time” score to arrive at the final of 35-27.
McWilliams was the headline. He rushed for 218 on 36 carries for three touchdowns. The rushing game was on display, and CMB’s defense did not have much of an answer.
“The guys up front were great at picking up blitzes and making blocking adjustments,” Bonnett said. “They did a great job, and what can you say about Blake? He was great for us. He ran hard. They couldn’t tackle him with one guy. He was really tough to bring down.”
Gilman ran for 26 yards from the QB position, and Uhlenhopp had 13 yards on the ground.
Leading PCM’s defense was who else but McWilliams with eight tackles. Brandon Charls had seven tackles. Luke Cummings had six. Uhlenhopp recorded five. Hayes Applegate, Jade Coleman, Donahue, Glenn Gillespie, Ryan Jennings. Jaret Maggard, Ronnie Marshall and Reeve had three apiece.
Samson completed 14-of-29 for the Raiders fro 207 yards and two touchdowns. He led the team in rushing with 58 yards on 19 carries. Moorman carried twice for 20 yards.
Moorman caught eight balls for 121 yards and a touchdown. Kemp caught two passes for 48 yards. Stover caught two balls for 27 yards.
Kemp led the defense with 12 tackles. Austin O’Connor and Clayton Weltha each had eight tackles. Nick Litell and Logan Cory had seven apiece. Stover and Samson each had six tackles. Patrick Girard had five tackles. Jordan Coughenour had four.