Girard sneaks past Mustangs
GIRARD — Fireworks flared in the first quarter to set the tone for a shootout between the Iola Mustangs and Girard Trojans. Although both teams accumulated all of their scoring early, the next three quarters were just as action packed.
Despite the 14-12 loss, the Mustangs arguably displayed their best performance of the season.
“I’m so proud of how these kids played tonight,” head coach David Daugharthy said. “I know the scoreboard may not show it, and it seemed like we got robbed a little bit. We played so hard, and I think our defense was a reflection of that.”
The Mustangs received the opening kickoff, but were unable to make the most of their first possession. Girard, on the other hand, struck first after Durbie McReynolds pounded into the end zone from the Iola 1-yard line.
The Mustangs bounced back quickly. Senior running back Casen Barker tiptoed the sideline for a 13-yard touchdown run off the pitch from quarterback Landon Carson, making the score 7-6 after the missed PAT. On the kickoff return after the Iola touchdown, the Trojans attempted a reverse that ended up with the ball on the ground. Brett Willis scooped the ball on the Trojan 15-yard line, and ran untouched for six to hand Iola the 12-7 lead. The score brought life into the Mustang sideline.
“That was a huge special teams play,” Daugharthy said. “On special teams, we had an overall good night.”
Girard quickly regained the lead before the end of the first quarter as McReynolds pumped into the end zone once more, making the score 14-12.
Defense defined the rest of the game. On the Mustangs’ first possession of the second quarter, Carson was intercepted to set the Trojans up in Iola territory. The Mustang defense stood firm to force a fumble, recovered by Gage Turner.
With less than a minute to go in the half, and Girard driving, the Mustang defense forced another ball on the ground. Holden Barker recovered the loose ball, but too little time remained for Mustang offense to capitalize on the turnover.
Girard received the second half kickoff, and executed the double-wing offense perfectly. The long, methodical drive took the Trojans inside the Iola 5-yard line. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, Iola’s defense stood firm to prevent the Trojans from increasing their lead.
Although the Mustangs moved the ball efficiently, penalties were too tall of an obstacle to overcome, and Iola was forced to punt it away early in the fourth quarter.
“We did make a lot of mistakes,” Daugharthy said. “Penalties hurt us a lot, and we were moving negative most of the time on offense. I have to take credit for that, and we have to be more disciplined.”
Iola received the ball once more in the fourth quarter after another crucial defensive stop. Backed deep in their own territory on fourth-and-4, Daugharthy played it safe, and flipped possession over to the Trojans off a strong punt by Kole Rogers. When the Mustangs needed their defense most, fatigue came into play. Girard comfortably controlled the clock to line up in victory formation to seal the win.
Isaac Badders finished as the Mustangs’ leading rusher, earning 67 yards rushing on 12 carries. Barker totaled 46 yards on 15 carries, including Iola’s sole offensive score. Carson totalled 82 yards through the air, with 62 going to Drake Sellman.
Defensively, Logan Brown recorded 7 tackles to go along with 2 sacks. Zane Whitney finished as Iola’s leading tackler with 9, and Karson McGraw followed with 8 tackles.
Next week will surely be an emotional roller coaster for the seniors. Iola will play its final home game of the season against Prairie View on senior night. The Buffalos remain perfect at 7-0, most recently trouncing Anderson County 41-0. Daugharthy said he expects the underclassmen to give every ounce of will for the seniors’ final night at Riverside Park.