It took a couple weeks longer than originally planned, but Iola High’s Mustangs started off their true home-opener Friday in style.
Sophomore quarterback Landon Weide found senior wideout TJ Taylor down the right sidelines for a 44-yard touchdown pass less than 90 seconds into their Pioneer League clash with Wellsville.
Alas, not much else went right after that.
Wellsville evened the score, then took control in a blistering second quarter en route to scoring 42 unanswered points.
By the time Iola’s reserves cashed in on a late touchdown, Wellsville was well on its way to a 42-14 victory.
The loss drops Iola to 1-2 on the season, with a tough road tilt at Frontenac looming next Friday.
“We’re excited for it,” Iola head coach David Daugharthy said. “But right now, we need to recover. We need to reset our mindset, make sure we’re ready to go.”
Wellsville’s physical defense put the clamps on Iola’s offense after the Weide-Taylor bomb, limiting the Mustangs to two first downs the rest of the half.
The Eagles also were able to maintain a massive field position advantage through much of second quarter.
Wellsville quarterback Dylan McCarty found sophomore speedster Willie Dorsey for a touchdown late in the first quarter.
The Eagles’ second scoring drive started at the Iola 25, and ended with Dezmond Winton’s 1-yard plunge.
Iola went three-and-out, and a long punt return had the Eagles setting up shop at the Mustang 26. Benito Delgado capped the five-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run for a 21-6 lead.
A strategic move by the Eagles paid off handsomely late in the half.
Wellsville opted to punt from midfield with less than 2 minutes left on the clock.
Pinned deep in its territory, Iola managed a first down, but little else, and had to punt the ball back to the Eagles at the Iola 36 with 45 seconds left.
Iola nearly had a game-changing turnover, but Mustang defensive back Devon Wilson was unable to haul in an interception on Wellsville’s next play from scrimmage. (Had he caught it, he would have had a golden opportunity to run untouched into the end zone for a score.)
But the fall fell incomplete, giving Wellsville another chance. McCarty converted, finding Dorsey for another 8-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds on the clock.
The Eagles then opened the second half with a bang.
McCarty found Jacob Hunsaker for a 55-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter for a commanding 35-6 lead.
Iola moved the ball a bit more effectively after halftime, but had nothing to show for it, leading to McCarty’s third touchdown pass of the day to Dorsey, this one covering 78 yards.
“We couldn’t make plays on either side of the ball,” Daugharthy said.
Iola found the end zone deep in the fourth quarter, after both teams had rested most of their starters for the night.
Backup running back Draydon Reiter and reserve quarterback Deacon Jones keyed a 10-play, 61-yard drive, the last 3 of which came when Reiter bulldozed his way in frome the 3. Reiter also added the 2-point conversion for the final score.
“We’ve got some great depth,” Daugharthy said. “That’s what’s exciting. It was a tough quarterback battle in the preseason. Deacon has done a good job.”
Unofficially, Weide hit 10 of 22 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. Taylor covered 66 yards on four receptions. Brett Willis had four receptions for 42 yards.
Reiter ran for 27 yards on nine carries. Starter Trent Jones had 17 yards rushing, but left the game early with a shoulder injury.
Starting linebacker and slot back Adam Atwell also left the game briefly after taking a hard hit to the back on a pass play in the second half.
Jones completed both of his passes, covering 34 yards.
“They did a pretty good job of shutting down the run,” Daugharthy said. “I thought we were going to be able to take advantage of some things in the passing game, but they handled it well. Kudos to them.”
On Wellsville’s side of the ledger, McCarty completed 11 of 16 passes for 229 yards, while Dorsey had five receptions for 116 yards and three touchdowns.
After some early troubles against Wellsville’s rushing attack, Iola’s defense clamped down nicely after the first quarter. Wellsville ran for 108 yards as a team, but required 31 attempts to do so.
Iola now sets its sights on a Frontenac team ranked third in Class 3A and coming off a 42-6 blowout win over traditional small-school power Pittsburg-St. Mary’s Colgan.
Count Daugharthy among those relishing the opportunity for the Mustangs to make some noise in what will be their first Class 3A, District 2 contest of the season.
“We’re always excited for a challenge,” he said.
While Friday was technically Iola’s second home game of the year, the Mustangs had to play in Humboldt on opening week because of damage to the football field at Iola’s Riverside Park.
While some damage to the turf was still slightly visible — a vandal drove his vehicle onto the field in August, leaving several ruts at midfield — the sod held up nicely throughout the game.
How they scored
Iola — Taylor 44 yard pass from Weide (run failed)
Wellsville — Dorsey 8 yard pass from McCarty (run failed)
Wellsville — Winton 1 yard run ((Winton run)
Wellsville — Delgado 2 yard run (Seaman kick)
Wellsville — Dorsey 8 yard pass from McCarty (Seaman kick)
Wellsville — Hunsaker 55 yard pass from McCarty (Seaman kick)
Wellsville — Dorsey 78 yard pass from McCarty (Seaman kick)
Iola — Reiter 3 yard run (Reiter run)