The sounds defined the battle.
When West Marshall running back Preston Pope, the leading rusher in Class 2A, got the ball in last Friday night’s playoff game against Mid-Prairie, he was …
The sounds defined the battle.
When West Marshall running back Preston Pope, the leading rusher in Class 2A, got the ball in last Friday night’s playoff game against Mid-Prairie, he was often met by not one Golden Hawk defender, but two or three of them. The smack of football pads echoed around the place.
Mid-Prairie coaches shouted instructions with every play and every shift in West Marshall’s potent backfield.
A big hit produced a roar from the Golden Hawks’ sideline and bleachers.
And when West Marshall quarterback Peyton Hart scored the game’s first touchdown on a 2-yard run, the home side of the stadium erupted with noise.
In the end, the Golden Hawks were left with just silence and a final team photo following a 26-14 loss that featured 261 rushing yards and a touchdown by Pope, who has run for more than 1,700 yards this year.
Senior linebacker Justice Jones (12.5 tackles, 2.5 for losses) led a Golden Hawk defense that gave up just one rushing touchdown to the Trojans in the first three quarters.
“I thought they did great, considering our offense was terrible the first half,” Mid-Prairie head coach Pete Cavanagh said. “They did outstanding. They did what we asked them to do against a tough running team.”
West Marshall (9-1), which is ranked No. 1 in 2A by the Des Moines Register, will host District 2A-6 champion Williamsburg (7-3) in the quarterfinals this coming Friday.
Mid-Prairie held the Trojans to just one touchdown in the first half and was positioned to strike offensively.
Two passes by Mid-Prairie quarterback Will Cavanagh into the corner of the end zone in the half’s final seconds toward junior receiver Cain Brown fell incomplete.
“We were right there,” Pete Cavanagh said. “Shoot, if we do anything in the first half.”
“We knew anything was possible,” Brown said. “We held them to six points. They’re a good team, they’re a good running team.
“If we hold them to a low score, anything can happen.”
And it almost did for the Golden Hawks early in the third quarter. Mid-Prairie drove to the West Marshall 10-yard line with its first possession of the second half, but a fumble on a handoff between Will Cavanagh and running back Tyler Helmuth resulted in a turnover at the 14-yard line.
Six plays later, as the Golden Hawks pushed up for yet another expected run, West Marshall receiver Grahm Nason slipped behind the Mid-Prairie defense. That caught the eye of Hart, who launched a 46-yard scoring pass. And just like that, the Golden Hawks were down, 14-0.
“That was kind of a backbreaker,” Pete Cavanagh said. “We had the momentum and we couldn’t catch up after that.”
The Golden Hawks answered with a 73-yard scoring drive, which Will Cavanagh finished off with a 25-yard scoring run with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter. Cavanagh passed for 92 yards and ran for 59 yards in his final high school football game.
“I’m proud of him,” Pete Cavanagh said. “I think he did a great job all year, just from a leadership standpoint. It was fun.”
But once Mid-Prairie cut West Marshall’s lead to 14-7, the Trojans cranked up their running game again for scoring runs in the fourth quarter by Hart and Pope. The two combined for 317 rushing yards in 50 plays and 3 touchdowns. They rank third in Class 2A with 20 touchdowns apiece, running out of a powerful backfield that features Hart, and three running backs behind him.
“It’s a tough team to fall behind to because they’re just going to run it and run it and run it,” Pete Cavanagh said. “You know, they’re a good defensive team, too. They haven’t given up a lot of points all year, so it’s gonna be a struggle. Once you figure it out, it’s going to be too late.”
Mid-Prairie held West Marshall to its lowest point total since the Trojans lost to Nevada in the second week of the season.
Trailing 28-7, the Golden Hawks struck for a touchdown with 1:02 left in the game. Senior receiver Jack Pennington caught his 8th pass of the game and 37th of the season, a 2-yard scoring pass from Will Cavanagh.
After that, the final seconds ticked down on a 6-4 season for the Golden Hawks. They topped last year’s record by two wins and equaled the six-win season posted by the 2019 squad.
“The atmosphere is amazing. These guys love playing with each other, play as a team great,” Brown said. “We had great chemistry in practice and during the games. It was great playing with these guys. I love them.”
“I think we probably played, I don’t know, above where we should be. We’ve got kids with heart, that’s what it is,” Pete Cavanagh said. “And we’ve got a good mix of seniors, good senior leadership. And the juniors and sophomores meshed, and there was no real drama. “
Mid-Prairie 0 0 7 7 -- 14
West Marshall 6 0 8 12 -- 26
WM: Peyton Hart 2 run (run failed)
WM: Grahm Nason 46 pass from Hart (Joey Tollefson pass from Hart)
MP: Will Cavanagh 25 run (Collin Miller kick)
MP: Preston Pope 6 run (pass failed)
WM: Hart 10 run (pass failed)
MP: Jack Pennington 2 pass from Cavanagh (Miller kick)
MID-PRAIRIE PASSING: Cavanagh, 11-of-23, 92 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
RUSHING: Bradon Hartley, 10-65; Cavanagh, 10-59, 1 TD; Helmuth, 8-26; Cain Brown, 1-4.
RECEIVING: Pennington, 8-61, 1 TD; Brown, 3-31.
LEADING TACKLERS: Justice Jones, 12.5; Brown, 11; Hartley, 7.5; Kaden Meader, 5.5; Grady Gingerich, 5; Terry Bordenave, 5.
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