ADAIR — Fifth-ranked Adair-Casey took a big step toward an Eight-Man District 6 title run here Friday with an 85-54 victory over Murray.
The Bombers improved to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in District 6. Murray falls to 4-2 and 3-1.
Beginning with quarterback Matt Barnes being tackled for a safety three minutes into the game, the Mustangs had a rough start Friday.
Clayton Plowman, who a week earlier became Iowa’s Eight-Man career rushing leader, returned the kickoff after the safety to the Mustang 10-yard line. He then carried for a 10-yard touchdown and all-state kicker Emmitt Wheatley kicked the extra point for a quick 9-0 advantage.
Coming into the game, Plowman already had 1,088 yards in five games, and 6,464 for his career to rank fourth all-time nationally. He needed 495 to move into second on the all-time national list.
But, Murray’s defense did a good job of containing Plowman’s rushing game throughout a hard-fought 34-yard half. However, not the same could be said for the Mustangs’ pass defense.
The game became a track meet, matching A-C’s passing against the big-play bursts of Murray running back Andrew Rider.
Barnes actually got Murray on the board first, scrambling 65 yards for a touchdown, with Brandon Short’s kick making it 9-7.
The Mustangs took a 20-17 lead after one period, before trailing 44-34 at halftime.
At halftime, Rider already had 189 yards rushing and three TDs on 13 carries, while Plowman managed only 34 on 10 attempts. Lineman George Barber and linebacker Sam Rockhold were especially active in plugging the Bomber ground game.
A-C’s lead was built primarily through the air, as Wheatley had three TD receptions and 155 yards receiving at the break.
Plowman returned the second-half kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown to set the tone for the second half, pushing A-C in front, 50-34. The Bombers led 65-46 after three periods.
For the game, Rider had 277 yards on 24 carries and rushing touchdowns of 20, 65, 46 and 55 yards. He also had a 77-yard punt return for an apparent touchdown that would have pulled him within one of the national record for punt return touchdowns, but it was nullified on a holding penalty.
Barnes connected with Sam Rockhold for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Seth Nerness added a 1-yard touchdown and late in the game reserve Jack Jones bolted 51 yards for a touchdown.
Plowman finished with 112 yards rushing on 19 carries and three touchdowns of 10, 6 and 43 yards, in addition to his kick return TD. Charlie Terry had receiving touchdowns of 59 and 35 yards and a 40-yard interception return that pushed the score to 77-46 with six minutes left.
Quarterback Traeton Jensen had a huge game for the Bombers. He had a 12-yard rushing touchdown and completed 10 of 13 passes for 392 yards and six TDs.
“We just couldn’t overcome that cluster of scores they got,” Murray coach Keith Shields said.
The array of big-play weapons was tough for the Murray defense to contain. Last spring, Jensen, Wheatley and Plowman formed three-fourths of the state’s Class 1A sixth-place 4x100 relay team in 44.72.
“You have to force them to drive the ball downfield and not give up big plays,” Shields said.
But, play-action passing to Wheatley and Terry carved up the Mustang defense repeatedly during the first three periods.
“We knew they were going to load up the box on Plowman, and we do have a lot of athletes,” A-C coach Wade Anderson said. “It helps having an all-state running back like Clayton to play-fake with.”
Rider averaged 10.7 yards per carry on 26 attempts and Barnes added 77 yards on the ground. Anderson said the defense has to improve for the Bombers to achieve their goals this season.
In reflection, Shields was proud that his team fought back from an early deficit to take the lead.
“I was proud of the way our guys responded there in the first first quarter,” Shields said.
In the 2011 campaign, A-C dominated early in an 80-40 victory in the regular season. Murray gained revenge in the quarterfinals, 70-54, to earn the school’s first trip to the UNI-Dome in a state runner-up campaign. Last year Murray again beat the Bombers in the playoffs, 60-43, on the way to a state semifinal appearance.
Anderson knows a return engagement is possible again.
“They are a great team, and we know they’re going to make some noise in the playoffs,” Anderson said, “and we’d like to make some noise, too. If we run into each other down the road, it will be another great battle.”