MONROE — Players on the PCM football team heard all the negative noise.
The Class 2A No. 3 Mustangs were unbeaten heading into a third-round playoff game with Greene County on Oct. 30, but many outsiders had doubts because of PCM’s “soft schedule.”
After a 42-0 victory over the Rams, senior lineman Greyson Strum hopes his squad will get the respect they have earned.
“I think it was a great stepping stone for us. I think everyone was kind of doubting us,” said Strum, who is a two-time all-state offensive lineman. “This was just the next step for our end goal of winning it all.”
Strum was a starter on the offensive line during the Mustangs’ 2018 title run.
He knows what a state championship team looks like, is now trying to win another 2A state title with his senior classmates and PCM has done nothing but dominate every team it has played so far this season.
The Mustangs rushed for 268 yards against Greene County (7-3) and the defense allowed only 110 total yards and forced four turnovers.
“We came out and we were focused, played well with our eyes and were in the right spots,” PCM head coach Greg Bonnett said. “We executed some of the things we put in as traps and overall I think it was important for us to compete. It was important for us to prove to ourselves we can be a great team, too.”
The Mustangs face No. 10 West Marshall (8-1) in the 2A quarterfinals at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6 in State Center.
PCM is making its third straight trip to the final eight. It is looking for a second trip to the UNI-Dome in the past three seasons.
“I am going to enjoy this one very briefly, and then get ready to go against West Marshall,” Bonnett said. “I am ready to start getting into that one, too.
“It’s fun to be competitive. Our guys thrive off it the same way I do. The inspiration is there to not only get past this one and get to the Dome but hopefully to play really well against a team that beat us last year.”
PCM led 14-0 after one quarter.
Greene County started the game with the ball, converted one third down and then punted.
The Rams pinned PCM deep in its own territory, but that just added yardage to the Mustangs’ first scoring drive.
PCM went 91 yards in 11 plays and capped the drive with a 36-yard touchdown pass from sophomore August Stock to senior Gatlin Boell on third and nine.
Boell also had a 29-yard reception on the drive. Seniors Sage Burns and Jacob Van Winkle opened the possession with runs of 14 and 11 yards, respectively.
Both Burns and Van Winkle are playing different positions this year. Van Winkle was moved from receiver to running back after junior Aidan Anderson was lost to a season-ending injury in the fifth game of the regular season.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Van Winkle said of the switch. “You have to learn a whole new position and learn the playbook over again, but it’s a good challenge. I’ve enjoyed it so far.”
PCM’s defense forced a turnover on the Rams’ ensuing possession and the Mustangs drove 46 yards for another TD. This time, PCM (9-0) ran it seven times and Stock capped the drive with a 5-yard TD run.
The drive also included an 11-yard run by Burns, who was the team’s quarterback for parts of last season.
“Playing quarterback has helped me read the defenses better and find the openings easier as a running back,” Burns said. “I already knew the offense. It gave me better vision.”
Senior Landon Fenton made it 21-0 when he returned a Rams’ punt 78 yards for a TD.
PCM’s next possession ended with a 40-yard missed field goal after the Mustangs started the drive on the Greene County 36-yard line. They went just 13 yards before settling for a long kick.
Another three and out by the PCM defense gave the ball back to the offense in good field position. The Mustangs started on the Rams’ 48-yard line and scored in six plays.
Burns scored on a 2-yard TD run. The big play on the drive was a 36-yard over-the-shoulder catch by Boell placed perfectly into tight coverage by Stock.
“We controlled things up front and we were able to throw it when we needed to,” Burns said. “It sends a message that we can dominate you on the ground or through the air. If you take one away, we can beat you the other way, too.”
Van Winkle opened the second half with a 75-yard kickoff return for a TD. That ignited the continuous clock.
“It was a squib kick. (Andrew) Mitchell went to go get it but I took away from him,” Van Winkle said. “I jumped in and got it and there was a massive hole and I just ran it in.”
PCM scored one more time in the fourth quarter, this time on another short TD run by Stock.
The scoring drive was set up by senior Justin Maggard’s seventh interception of the season. PCM went 37 yards in four plays, highlighted by a 23-yard run by Fenton.
Another turnover by Greene County gave it back to the Mustangs late in the game. PCM started at the Rams’ 49 and ran nine plays before taking a knee inside the 10-yard line.
The drive included a 13-yard run by Van Winkle and runs of 11 and 10 yards by Burns.
Burns said the outside noise definitely motivated the Mustangs. They were out to prove they again belonged as one of the best teams in 2A.
“It gave us some extra fire. Just because we haven’t played a tough schedule doesn’t mean we aren’t physical,” Burns said. “I feel like you just have to watch the film. There is no way you can’t see that we are physical if you watch the tape.”
Burns led the Mustang offense with 119 rushing yards and a TD on 22 carries. Stock added 67 rushing yards, 101 passing yards and three total TDs.
Van Winkle rushed for 50 yards on eight carries and Boell hauled in three passes for 101 yards and a TD.
Maggard led the defense with 5.5 tackles and an interception. Senior Connor Bennett also had an interception and tallied 4.5 tackles.
Senior Colby Tool tallied 4.5 tackles, senior Andrew Mitchell and junior Durant Van Dyke chipped in four tackles and Boell and junior Jacob Eslinger each recovered a fumble.
Notes: The Mustangs improved to 30-3 the past three years. ... PCM is one of only two unbeaten teams left in 2A. Top-ranked Williamsburg was eliminated by West Liberty in their third-round meeting. ... PCM had one punt and kick return opportunity against Greene County and returned them both to paydirt. ... West Marshall defeated PCM 14-7 last year. The Trojans scored the winning points in the final few minutes of the game. West Marshall also handed PCM a 41-14 loss in the 2011 2A quarterfinals in Bonnett’s first season as head coach.