MEDIAPOLIS — Frustrating — that was the mood amongst Mustang supporters in what turned out to be Prairie City-Monore’s season finale for its football team, a Class 2A playoff loss to 10-0 Mediapolis.
PCM fell behind early due to a combination of some bad luck and mental errors.
Once the Mustangs got into a 21-0 hole in the first quarter, the rain picked up to the pace of what some might consider border line monsoon conditions, which turned what was already a physical game into an ugly one. PCM was unable to mount much of an offense, falling 21-0.
“We had some mistakes early with some turnovers,” PCM coach Greg Bonnett said. “They made one big play early, and we straightned up from there. I think if we hadn’t gotten down so quick, we would have had a chance to win that game.”
Mediapolis opened the game with a big strike. After the Mustangs held down two rush attempts by the Bulldogs, senior quarterback Drew Foster connected to a wide open Drew Massner down the middle of the field for a 60-yard pickup, putting the Bulldogs inside the 5-yard line. Two plays later, junior Steven Holloway punched in a one-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.
PCM running back Blake McWilliams ran for a first down after two gritty runs, but Logan Gilman was sacked, and the Mustangs were eventually forced to punt.
The Bulldogs wasted no time in striking again. Senior Drew Buster ran along the left sideline, dodging Mustang defenders for 27 yards, putting Mediapolis at the 12-yard line.
After a holding penalty, Foster scrambled up the middle, breaking several Mustang tackles on his way to the end zone.
With Mediapolis set to kick off, the rain really started to pick up in volume and ferocity. The Bulldogs squibbed a kickoff down the middle of the field. It short-hopped the up-man for the Mustangs, and the ball laid free on the ground. Mediapolis senior Seth Bietz recovered to give the Bulldogs possession.
On the very next play, Holloway took the ball off left guard for a 32-yard touchdown run. Jonathon Massner’s extra point put Mediapolis up 21-0 with less than two minutes remaining in the second quarter.
PCM began to rally on its following drive. Bonnett made a sideline plea to his players to forget the score and just keep fighting. Those words and some solid execution in the running game got the Mustangs down to the Mediapolis 45-yard line. On a third down and one to go, the snap was bobbles, and Massner pounced on it to give possession back to the Bulldogs.
The field switched beginning the second quarter. Mediapolis began to drive yet again, getting the ball inside the Mustangs’ 40. After a holding play, the Bulldogs faced a third and 22, and in an attempt to chuck one deep, Ricky Reeve picked one off. PCM’s following drive would stall out, though, forcing another punt.
Later in the quarter, Justin Beener pounced on a loose ball to halt another Bulldog drive, and the half would end with Mediapolis essentially sitting on the football.
There was not a lot of action in the second half. The weather inhibited the passing game for both sides, but it also did not allow either team to gain much traction in the ground game. When the final whistle sounded, PCM’s season was over and Mediapolis remained undefeated.
“The game really stalled out on the second half,” Bonnett said. “The weather affected offense more than anything. Defensively, it was a benefit, but on offense it was tough to do anything.”
The loss wraps up a 4-6 season for PCM, which would have finished 5-5 had the team not been forced to forfeit a game against Pella Christian earlier in the year.
PCM will lose 11 seniors off this year’s squad. Among them is leading rusher Blake McWilliams. McWlliams carried the team in the ground game, rushing for 1,115 yards and 10 touchdowns, including an 81-yard touchdown run. McWilliams was also the team’s leading tackler with 75 on the season.
“Blake is going to be really tough to replace,” Bonnett said. “He’s a kid with a great motor. The way he practices, the way he plays, he just goes nonstop all the time. That’s a rare thing to find in a high school athlete.”
Senior Zach Uhlenhopp will be leaving the Mustangs, as well. Uhlenhopp had a playmaker ability on defense that the Mustangs will miss, intercepting seven passes on the season. Luke Cummings, another senior, finished third on the team with 46 tackles. Brandon Charls will be gone too. He was second on the team with 47 tackles.
Other team leaders included Gilman throwing the football. He was 33-for-69 for 508 yards and four touchdowns. Ronnie Marshall had 59 rushing attempts for 269 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“Ronnie is someone who we feel can step in next year and carry some of the load Blake (McWilliams) carried for us this year,” Bonnett said.
The 4-6 record was not what the Mustangs were looking for to start the season, and Bonnett laments missing some opportunites for wins in close games.
“The record is disappointing,” he said. “We seemed like we were always in games, but we just weren’t able to get the win a lot of the time. The kids had a rough stretch there, and we just weren’t able to fully dig ourselves out of it.”