MONROE — Prairie City-Monroe’s football team was doing everything right during the early stages of its first-round playoff game with Williamsburg on Friday night.
The Mustangs scored on their first two possessions and the defense forced a turnover and a turnover on downs. Then three straight mistakes by the home team allowed the Raiders to stay close, and Williamsburg took advantage in the end.
The Class 2A No. 9 Raiders scored 12 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to rally past the fourth-ranked Mustangs, 18-17.
PCM turned it over four times total and senior Brady Fagen missed a 24-yard field goal that would have given the Mustangs a lead late in the fourth quarter.
“You can’t turn the ball over and expect to win these kind of games unless you truly outmatch your opponent. And we knew coming in that that wasn’t going to be the case,” PCM coach Greg Bonnett said.
“We made critical mistakes that were unsurmountable at the end.”
PCM out-gained Williamsburg 403-282 in total yards, but the Raiders turned it over only once in the win.
Williamsburg got 178 rushing yards on 25 carries from 2A’s leading rusher Gage Hazen-Fabor, and it was his 47-yard touchdown run with 8:49 to play in the game that proved to be the difference.
PCM junior Wes Cummings gained 172 yards on 23 carries, and senior Noah Anderson rushed for 99 yards on 10 carries, but the Mustangs lost three fumbles and junior Reed Worth threw an interception. Worth finished 7-of-13 through the air for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
The Mustangs forced a fumble on Williamsburg’s first possession, and then the offense drove 54 yards in seven plays. Anderson’s 26-yard run was the drive’s biggest play until Worth found junior Isaac Telfer for a 17-yard TD.
The Raiders (8-2) got a big gain on a 35-yard pass completion from Gage Blythe to Ben Subbert. Williamsburg gained three yards on the next four plays though and turned it over on downs.
PCM made it 14-0 with it drove 69 yards in five plays. Cummings lumbered 37 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Then junior Brayton Van Dyke made a diving catch for 17 yards after back-to-back pre-snap penalties. Cummings went 11 on the next play to get a first down, and Worth found junior Preston Van Wyk for an 18-yard TD two plays later.
Williamsburg punted on its next possession, but PCM gave the ball back to the Raiders after a fumble. They got the ball at the PCM 22-yard line, but the Mustang defense kept Williamsburg off the scoreboard.
Blythe was sacked by junior Cole Dustin and Van Dyke before and after a 10-yard holding penalty. The Raiders punted two plays later.
The Mustangs got it on their own 9-yard line. Worth started the drive with a 6-yard run, but then threw a pick on the next play.
The Raiders carved into PCM’s lead when they drove 24 yards in four plays. Hazen-Fabor went 15 on the first play and then Blythe found Graeson Trevino on a 5-yard TD pass. PCM senior Jacob Ponder blocked the kick on the PAT attempt to keep it at 14-6.
PCM’s next drive lasted just four plays. They picked up a first down on two running plays, but fumbled two plays later.
The Mustang defense once again held up. Williamsburg started at the PCM 43-yard line, but turned it over on downs after picking up one first down.
PCM started its final drive of the first half at its own 15-yard line. Anderson got a first down with a 31-yard run and then Cummings converted a third down and five with a 14-yard run. Van Dyke hauled in a 26-yard catch to put the Mustangs into the red zone. They were forced to try a field goal three plays later and Fagen made the 24-yard attempt to put the home team up 17-6 at halftime.
Out of the halftime break, the Mustangs got the ball first. A 40-yard run by Cummings got the ball into Williamsburg territory. After an offensive holding pushed the Mustangs back 10 yards, Cummings got most it back on one play and then got to the 30-yard line with a 10-yard catch.
The next two plays went for no yards and an intentional grounding call pushed PCM back to the Williamsburg 40-yard line. On fourth and 15, Worth hooked up with Cummings on a short pass and the completion ended up being one yard shy of a first down.
Williamsburg punted on its next possession, but PCM lost a fumble inside the red zone. The Raiders would once again take advantage.
The Raiders converted a fourth down and one with a 5-yard run by Mathyan Powell and then Blythe found Trevino for a 19-yard gain. Trevino scored six plays later on a 10-yard pass from Blythe to make it 18-12.
Williamsburg scored 12 points off PCM’s miscues, and Trevino hauled in four passes for 52 yards.
“To hold Williamsburg to 18 points when you turn it over four times is pretty remarkable,” Bonnett said. “The defense played great. The offense had their moments, but the mistakes just got us.”
PCM gained four yards on three plays on its next drive. The Mustangs punted it away, and Williamsburg started with the ball at the PCM 47-yard line.
Hazen-Fabor needed just one play to give his team its first lead. He zig zagged through the Mustang defense, and broke one final tackle at the 15-yard line before sprinting into the end zone.
“We missed two tackles on the big run. That was a big play,” Bonnett said. “In the end though, we couldn’t put enough points on the board. We stalled out a lot. That’s what got us I think more than anything.”
Bonnett still felt good at that point. PCM got the ball back with 8 minutes to play in the game, but a block in the back on the first play moved the Mustangs behind the chains. Worth gained 15 yards on the next play, and Cummings picked up the first down with a 15-yard run. He followed it up with runs of 10 and seven yards before Anderson scampered 19 for another first down.
The drive stalled out though, gaining two yards on the next three plays. Fagen had a chance to put the Mustangs up two, but his 24-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
Needing a stop on defense to have a chance, PCM couldn’t slow down Hazen-Fabor on Williamsburg’s final possession. He picked up six on third and six to extend the drive, and then his 8-yard run on another third and one killed more clock. The Raiders were able to get into victory formation following a 12-yard run by their standout tailback.
“They made some plays. I am not sure if it shocked our guys or what the deal was,” Bonnett said. “With this team, they have great emotion and great intensity, but the word of the year has been focus. They have a tendency to lose focus. I think maybe that’s what happened on a few of the critical plays, and that can lead to a narrow loss like we experienced this year.
“I did feel good (about that final drive). I thought we were going to drive it down and score. And then I thought Fagen was going to put it through the uprights. When he didn’t, I still thought our defense could get us the ball back. We fought until the end. There’s not a lot of quit in us, but in the end it was that key word of focus that hurt us.”
Worth completed seven passes to four different players. Van Dyke had two catches for 44 yards, and Telfer tallied 33 yards on two catches. Cummings caught two passes for 25 yards, and Van Wyk’s lone catch was an 18-yard TD.
The Mustangs ended their season at 8-2. They captured their second straight district championship this past season and have only lost four times in two years. PCM graduates a handful of key seniors, but a large junior class returns for one final shot at a state title in 2018.
“We’ve been playing with this junior class for two years now,” Bonnett said. “We have a lot of kids coming back. We’ll have a very good team next year. I am going to miss the seniors a ton. They had great leadership. Right now, it almost feels like we are shock more than anything. You can either be a baby and whine about it or tomorrow you can show up and get back to work, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.”
Williamsburg advances to the 2A quarterfinals where it will face a familiar foe on Friday. The Raiders will play at No. 3 Mount Vernon, a district opponent which defeated them 42-14 in Week 9.
Mount Vernon eliminated Centerville, 42-10, in its first-round game.
Williamsburg 0-6-0-12 — 18
PCM 14-3-0-0 — 17
PCM — Isaac Telfer 17 pass from Reed Worth (Brady Fagen kick)
PCM — Preston Van Wyk 18 pass from Worth (Fagen kick)
Williamsburg — Graeson Trevino 5 pass from Gage Blythe (kick blocked)
PCM — Fagen 24 field goal
Williamsburg — Trevino 11 pass from Blythe (pass failed)
Williamsburg — Gage Hazen-Fabor 47 run (run failed)