Last year’s season didn’t end as planned for the Prairie City-Monroe football team.
The Mustangs were left with plenty of reasons to feel like they had some unfinished business to attend to in 2017.
PCM coach Greg Bonnett admitted some of his guys could have played better in the season-ending loss to Dike-New Hartford last season.
Bonnett said this in the preseason before the Mustangs won a second straight Class 2A District 6 title.
“If you go back and watch the film, (Brayton) Van Dyke was playing linebacker and he could have played better, (Wes) Cummings and (Jarron) Trausch will see that they missed some reads, and I think Brycen (Rogers) sees that he could have made a few more tackles,” Bonnett said. “Isaac Telfer just sees the fact that he wasn’t on the field. He should feel like he got robbed and cheated out of a season. Cole Dustin got worked over by Dike-New Hartford’s big, bad linemen and he feels like he has some things to prove, too.”
There is plenty of unfinished business after a 54-14 loss to the Wolverines. In that game, Dike-New Hartford rushed for 349 yards with the state’s all-time leading rusher, Trent Johnson, running for 296 of them.
Class 2A No. 4 PCM will face a similar challenge on Friday night in the opening round of the 2017 playoffs.
Ninth-ranked Williamsburg heads to Monroe for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Raiders feature the top rushing offense in 2A with 3,092 yards. They also lead 2A in rushing touchdowns with 45.
“Williamsburg is a physical team that tries to outnumber you in the running game,” Bonnett said. “They have a very fast running back and a host of other guys who will carry the ball.”
The Raiders average 344 rushing yards per game, led by junior Gage Hazen-Fabor. Hazen-Fabor leads all of 2A with 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns. He’s averaging nearly 10 yards per carry.
Williamsburg spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll but enters the postseason as one of the two 2A wild card teams. The Raiders started 5-0 but lost two of their final three games.
The Raiders went 0-2 against teams (Mount Vernon and West Liberty) with a combined record of 14-4. The seven wins came against teams with a combined 19-44 mark, and the best teams Williamsburg (7-2) defeated were Anamosa (5-4) and Mediapolis (5-4).
PCM (8-1) faces an opponent in Williamsburg which scored 411 points on the season, which ranked third in 2A.
“The key to stopping them is matching their physicality and taking advantage of any mistakes they make to get them behind the sticks on third down,” Bonnett said.
The Raiders only managed nine points in the loss to West Liberty despite rushing for 220 yards. They scored 14 points against No. 3 Mount Vernon and managed only 100 rushing yards in the loss.
Mount Vernon could be the next opponent for the PCM-Williamsburg winner. Mount Vernon hosts Centerville at 7 p.m. Friday.
“I think we have put ourselves in the situation to achieve our goals, and now it is up to us to give our absolute best and have fun doing it,” Bonnett said. “The main thing is tough football games are fun to play in.”
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, close games have not been the norm the past two seasons. After Week 1 losses to Pella Christian, PCM rolled off eight straight wins in each season to finish 8-1. The Mustangs went 7-0 in District 6 play the last two seasons, too.
Following a 24-22 loss to the Class 1A No. 2 Eagles, PCM went on to outscore its opponents 341-60 in six games. The other two games were forfeit wins given by Class A Montezuma (4-4) and 2A Clarke (0-9).
To have continued success and advance past the first round for the second straight season, the Mustang defense will have to slow down Hazen-Fabor and the Raiders’ strong running game.
PCM’s offensive line will be key on that side of the ball, too, as Williamsburg enters the game with 29 sacks and three defensive TDs.
“They are certainly not afraid to blitz, but they have two defensive ends that I think are outstanding players,” Bonnett said. “We are certainly going to have to block at our best.”
The No. 1 priority for the Mustang offensive line is Ben Subbert, who has 32 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 10 sacks on the season. The Raider defense also has seven interceptions and nine fumble recoveries.
The Mustangs are averaging 52 points this season, and the starters haven’t played in a second half since the Week 1 loss to Pella Christian.
The Mustang defense has 31 tackles for loss, nine interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries and three defensive scores on the season.
Bonnett hopes playing at home for at least the opening round of the playoffs will give his team an advantage, but he expects Williamsburg to bring a big crowd, too.
“I think we will have a nice advantage if our crowd shows up big,” Bonnett said. “Our guys kind of feed off the energy of the student section. It’s the playoffs, so it will be a great atmosphere.”