ELDRIDGE — Upset watch was in full effect after the first half of Mt. Pleasant’s Class 3A Round of 32 game at North Scott, but the Panthers couldn’t withstand a second-half storm from the heavily favored Lancers on Friday night. North Scott (ranked No. 8 in Gazette poll, No. 9 in Associated Press) overcame Mt. Pleasant’s one-point halftime lead and dominated the second half to knock the Panthers out 58-26.
The game started out like many expected. North Scott looked dominant in the first quarter, holding the Panthers on offense and scoring twice.
After blocking a punt on Mt. Pleasant’s opening drive, Lancer quarterback Carter Markham marched his team downfield and scored on a 6-yard touchdown run. On the Lancers’ next possession, Markham burned the Panthers again, finding the end zone on a 2-yard run. The good news for Mt. Pleasant was that North Scott missed two extra points, keeping the score at 12-0 North Scott after one quarter.
North Scott was lined up for a field-goal attempt, which would have brought the Lancers’ lead to 15-0, but Mt. Pleasant busted through the line and disrupted the kick. Brevin Wilson got a hand on the field goal try to give the Panthers a blocked kick and the Panthers had some life.
One play later, Mt. Pleasant hit North Scott with the biggest play of the first half. Quarterback Jack Johnson fooled the defense on a play-action and then hit a wide open Brady Hall down the North Scott sideline. Hall caught the ball in stride and took it to the end zone for a 94-yard touchdown catch, which ignited the Panther sideline. The PAT was no good, but the Panthers trailed by just one score, at 12-6.
“That was a great read by Jack and a great catch by Brady,” said Mt. Pleasant head coach Shawn Striegel. “The coaches were saying their defensive backs were biting on the play action, and there was definitely blown coverage on that play action.”
North Scott scored on its next possession, going up 19-6 on a 51-yard pass from Markham to Oliver Hughes, but that didn’t spoil the Panthers’ momentum. Mt. Pleasant scored on its final two possessions of the half, with Johnson hitting Wilson for a 54-yard touchdown pass and Williamson on a 24-yard touchdown pass. As the time wound down toward the end of the second quarter, the underdog Panthers held a one-point lead, at 20-19.
North Scott scored on a 25-yard field goal with 7:43 left in the third to grab the lead back at 22-20, and that was the last lead change of the game. Mt. Pleasant fumbled on its next drive, and North Scott would drive down and score again for 10 points over the course of two minutes. With 5:55 showing on the third quarter clock, the Lancers led 29-20.
Mt. Pleasant drove down to the North Scott 32 on its next possession, but the Lancers held and scored again. North Scott won the third quarter 25-0 to take a commanding 44-20 lead after three periods.
The Panthers had one last gasp of breath in the fourth when Johnson polished off a drive with a touchdown run from inside the 5-yard line. North Scott answered with two straight scores to win the fourth 14-6 and run away with a 32-point victory.
“They’re a really talented football team,” said Coach Striegel about the Lancers. “I don’t think they were prepared for us to fight the way we did in the first half, but they were prepared in the second.”
Johnson had another huge stat line to end his senior season, and his only season as starting quarterback for Mt. Pleasant. He went 22-for-35 for 378 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, and also ran for 73 yards and a score. Griffen Molle was Mt. Pleasant’s second-leading rusher, with 24 yards.
Wilson finished the night with seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Hall caught two balls for 103 yards and a touchdown. Brennen Bender had 71 yards receiving, and Williamson ended the night with 62 yards receiving and one score.
The Panthers ended the season 4-4 with wins over Clear Creek-Amana, Fairfield, Burlington and Benton, with the ladder coming in the playoffs. Though the Panthers had a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Coach Striegel said the team was blessed to get the season in.
“We talk about it all the time, that every day is a blessing,” Striegel said. “We didn’t know when our practice would be our last, or that our game would be our final, until today. We’re really happy and fortunate to get the season in.”