Prairie Valley pushes around previously unbeaten Cougars
ACKLEY – AGWSR is used to doling out the punches, not taking them.
Dominated on the line of scrimmage and unable to find an answer through the air with three different quarterbacks, the fourth-ranked Cougars were bludgeoned time and again in a 26-6 defeat by Prairie Valley in Class 2A District 2 play Friday.
The loss leaves the Cougars (9-1, 6-1) in a three-way tie for the district title with Bishop Garrigan (7-2, 6-1) and Prairie Valley (6-3, 6-1). The Warriors rattled off their sixth straight win with a combination of tough running between the tackles, timely turnovers and some shifty speed on the outside.
“They just whupped us,” said AGWSR coach Skip Eckhardt, whose team was limited to 99 total yards of offense.
“We’re not going to make injuries an excuse, they just whupped us.”
AGWSR is the No. 2 seed and will make its third playoff appearance Wednesday, hosting Lawton-Bronson (6-3) in a first round game at 7 p.m.
Prairie Valley outrushed the Cougars 245-64 and won the turnover battle 3-1.
Warriors quarterback Austin Wood accounted for all four touchdowns including two on the ground, one through the air and another by fumble recovery. The speedy 6-foot-3 senior dashed for 151 yards on 19 carries including a 14-yard keeper barely two minutes into the third to give the Warriors the lead for good.
Knotted at 6-all at the break, Wood directed a 5-play, 74-yard drive to open the third before his rollout to the left gave the visitors a 12-6 lead with 9:56 to play in the quarter.
After trading three-and-outs, Wood scooped up a Cougar fumble and raced 49 yards to the end zone to stretch the lead to 18-6 with 6:06 remaining in the frame. Prairie Valley recovered the ensuing squib kick, though AGWSR’s defense answered with a stop.
“The defense played pretty well, we put them in bad predicaments,” said Eckhardt. “In general the defense played good enough to be a winner. We let a couple big ones there at the end but we did nothing to help them. If they’re going to be on the field all the time, it’s going to hurt.”
The Cougars offense couldn’t get going though special teams came through when Austin Heitland blocked a punt to give the Cougars possession at their own 44 late in the third. AGWSR followed with four straight incompletions using all three quarterbacks on the possession.
The home team finished a combined 3-of-21 through the air for 35 yards and a pair of interceptions as junior Brandon Johnson (1-of-9, 17 yards, 1 INT), senior Evan Janssen (0-for-2) and freshman Nathan Karsjens (2-for-10, 18 yards, 1 INT) each saw time at the wheel.
Woods completed just 3-of-9 passing, but did most of the damage on his legs including a backbreaking 60-yard scamper early in the fourth, shedding a couple Cougars on his way to the end zone. Woods connected with Conner Conrad on the ensuing 2-point conversion to set the final margin with 9:03 remaining.
The Cougars last two drives ended with a turnover on downs and an interception as the Warriors spoiled senior night in Ackley. Austin Promes added 63 yards on 13 carries and Ryan True chipped in 32 yards on 14 rushes as the Warriors controlled the tempo.
“We came out and wanted it. We were physical and we knew what we were up against – a very good team,” said Prairie Valley coach Mike Swieter. “You can’t look at size, you can’t look at stats. You’ve got to play Friday night football and we played Friday night football. … Hat’s off to our line of scrimmage, we absolutely controlled it on both sides.”
Prairie Valley took the lead after the Cougars fumbled at their own 15. Woods tossed a 9-yard strike to Shane Promes midway through the first. AGWSR answered early in the second with a 17-yard fade to Heitland in the left corner of the end zone to tie it up at 6.
Clay Bohner was the Cougars’ leading rusher with just 20 yards on 12 carries, while Clay Meinders added 14 yards on six attempts.
“They were coming harder … just going a little harder,” said Eckhardt of the Warriors’ winning the battle of the trenches. “We just have a short-term memory and go to work tomorrow. We’re still in the playoffs. … (Prairie Valley) has just been on a roll and they hit us in the mouth … they beat us.”
Despite their struggles on the ground Friday, the Cougars won’t stray far from their time-tested running attack heading into the postseason. Though Eckhardt said his team would likely have to add a couple wrinkles.
“We’ve got to throw something in, you just don’t want to throw everything in,” he said.
The 12 seniors on the AGWSR football team were recognized before the game including Janssen, Bohner, Darrick Kyle-Murphy, Carson Lutterman, Dillin Hofmeister, Tanner Reents, Derek Schipper, Joey Neely, Trevor Bakker, Jared Haupt, Heitland and Valentin Bourgois.