Nov. 13—CEDAR FALLS — The Panthers defense held the Crusaders' offense to only 16 points and a scoreless second half, but the offense struggled to get a rhythm, falling 16-13 Saturday in the Class 3A semifinals at the UNI-Dome.
"At the end of the day they should have a sense of pride about what they did," Creston coach Brian Morrison said. "Eleven wins. That's a tremendous season. They inspired the younger generation of Creston football players and we had great support from the town of Creston. It was a huge turnout for a semifinal game. There were more positives than negatives. I'm proud of them."
Heelan Hot Start
Bishop Heelan-Catholic received the opening kickoff to begin the game and their drive took nearly seven minutes. The Panthers only had the ball for three minutes in the first quarter.
"They had that first drive of the game that ate a lot of clock," Morrison said. "We had them in down and distance where we wanted them a few times, and they made good plays to convert on third down. We just kept telling the kids that we just have to get in our gaps and do our job. For the most part, we did that in the second half and gave ourselves a chance."
Crusader quarterback Quinn Olson's passes all fell incomplete in the first drive, but Olson and running back Ricky Feauto took turns running the ball downfield to set up a first and goal from the 1-yard line.
But the Panthers' defense wasn't about to let Heelan find the end zone. On first down, Will Bolinger stopped Feauto at the line of scrimmage. On second down, Milo Staver and Lucas Travis had a sack on Olson to back them up to the 7-yard line.
A false start followed by an ineligible man down field penalty backed them up 10 more yards. A pass attempt to the end zone went incomplete, forcing the Crusaders to take a field goal.
"Heelan is a great team," Creston all-state running back Brennan Hayes said. "They have a fantastic quarterback that can stay moving. We didn't give up many huge plays, but they were driving the field and eating up time."
Creston's Dylan Calvin (31) and Will Bolinger (35) stop Bishop Heelan ball carrier Kasen Thomas as Austin Evans (32) closes in on the play. Boinger had a team-high nine tackles for the Panthers and Calvin had his sixth interception of the season on Saturday.
The Panthers' offense, averaging 41 points per game, took the field with five minutes left in the quarter. The first two plays of the drive were first downs as Weston Trapp took a pass from Cael Turner 14 yards and Hayes rushed for 12. But two 0-yard plays and a false start set up a third-and-15. Junior Josh Schaefer caught a 14-yard pass for Turner for a short fourth down, but another false start made it fourth-and-6, forcing the Panthers to punt.
"When we got the ball and got those opportunities, we kept hurting ourselves," Turner said on the penalties. "When we got it, we knew we had to score because you never know how many opportunities you're going to get. We didn't do that in the first half and it came back to hurt us."
Turner has led Class 3A in passing yards for a majority of the season. Against Heelan, he went 24-35 for 253 yards and a TD. His season total culminates in 2,993 yards, surpassing the previous single-season program record of 2,868 yards by Alex Nielsen from the 2014 Dome season that ended at 10-3. Creston played one less game this year, ending 11-1.
Turner also holds the school records for single-season passing TDs (34) and completions (191). His touchdowns rank 35th in the state, all-time.
The Crusaders continued to roll in the second quarter, Feauto with a 37-yard rushing touchdown and Olson with a 5- yard rushing touchdown to open the lead 16-0 after two missed PATs.
"Creston two-platoons everything and we knew we had to try to keep the ball out of their hands," Bishop-Heelan coach Jon LaFleur said. "As dynamic as their offense is — and not having any guys playing both ways and so many of our guys going both ways — we had to find ways to stay fresh. In order to do that, we had to control the clock and control the ball. Quinn is just a gamer. He seems to find a way and he helped us convert a lot of big third downs to allow us to do that in the first half."
Coming back onto the field after two three-and-outs, the Panthers needed a change in momentum. "Their D-linemen definitely played really well, their D-ends were great," Hayes said. "They were able to shut down our zone play, which we run a lot. The D-end was able to make the read on either one of us (RB and QB). That was one of our bread and butter plays this year and they shut it down a lot. I didn't quite break one like I wanted."
The shift started in the form of a 12-yard pass to Brandon Briley, but then Turner threw an interception. The Crusaders offense began to take the field, but a face mask penalty on the previous play negated the interception and gave the Panthers a short second down.
Hayes took it 10 yards for a first down before Briley caught two more passes to set up a first-and-10 from Heelan's 11-yard line.
Creston receiver Brandon Briley (83) splits two Bishop Heelan defenders, Sir Brandon Watts (3) and Brady Baker (26) to pick up yardage on one of his 11 receptions Saturday. Briley had 101 receiving yards Saturday, pushing his single-season school record to 897 yards. Teammate Brennan Hayes is second all-time with 881 yards receiving this season.
Briley's 101 passing yards on 11 catches Saturday took the single-season receiving yards record set last week by Hayes. Briley finished the season with 897 yards while Hayes had 881.
Carson Rieck caught a 5-yard pass and was tackled by Olson who hurt his shoulder on the play. After the injury timeout, Hayes found the end zone on a 2-yard run.
Brennan Hayes of Creston (45) scores on a 2-yard run for Creston's first touchdown in Saturday's 16-13 loss to Bishop Heelan. Hayes rushed for 136 yards and had 56 yards receiving on three catches. He ended the season with 1,781 yards rushing (second in Class 3A) and stands second in Creston career rushing with 3,806 yards.
The Panthers went for two, but were unsuccessful.
With their starting quarterback being evaluated, the Crusaders were forced to put running back Kasen Thomas in at quarterback to start their next drive. Thomas fumbled the ball on second down, losing 7 yards before Olson came back out. It wasn't enough to gain a first down, so Heelan punted after only three plays.
Morrison said the team felt good at halftime, only down 10 points and getting the ball to start the third.
The Panthers put a sustained drive together, earning four first downs and getting down to the Heelan 37-yard line before stalling out.
In the next drive, Heelan converted three third downs, but on third-and-23 from the Creston 48-yard line, Olson's pass was intercepted by Dylan Calvin.
Dylan Calvin (No. 31) intercepts a pass thrown by Bishop Heelan quarterback Quinn Olson Saturday while teammate Dillon Starlin looks on. The Panthers lost 16-13 in the semifinal match. Calvin's six interceptions this season leads Class 3A
Calvin's sixth interception of the season put him in sole possession of the Class 3A interception title after being tied with several other players at five.
Heelan has averaged 35 points per game this season, but the Panthers defense held them scoreless in the second half.
With eight minutes left in play, the Panthers still trailed 10. On the first play of the drive, Turner found Hayes over the middle for 54 yards. The drive would culminate in a 6-yard touchdown reception by Briley to put the Panthers down three.
"They are so good with their RPO (run-pass option) stuff, we had to take away the run first," LaFleur said. "We played really physical up front with our guys. They got us on one big play late, and that little 83 [Briley], he can make plays. Hats off to Creston, they are so dynamic on offense. We feel fortunate to have played them and won."
A representative of the Iowa High School Athletic Association presents the Class 3A semifinals trophy to Creston captains, from left, Brennan Hayes, Max Chapman, Cael Turner and Austin Evans.
A failed onside kick gave the Crusaders good field position, but once again, the Panthers defense got the stop.
Bolinger led the defense in total tackles with nine total tackles including a tackle for loss. Jack Walter had six solo tackles in the secondary. Dillon Starlin, McCoy Haines and Calvin all had pass break ups.
With three minutes left, the Panthers had the ball back and 80 yards to go. But they were missing their starting center, senior Jagger Luther, with an ankle/foot injury. Luther left the game on crutches.
Though Hayes was able to convert two first downs for the Panthers, mental mistakes stopped them from getting the points they needed.
"Seeing it end this way, it's not the way we wanted, but win or lose, it was a remarkable season, one that we can look back on and be proud of," Turner said. "But it hurts right now."
The Creston crowd showed up ready to support the Panthers.
"It was pretty amazing honestly to see everyone come out and support us," Briley said. "Just to see how many people really care about our program and the things we've accomplished this season."
Creston band director Mike Peters shows his emotion during a big play by Creston in Saturdays semifinal game in the UNI-Dome.
Bolinger said he thought our fan base doubled, if not tripled the other team's fans. "It was pretty cool," he said. "It was cool to have the whole community here to support us today."
Hayes said he'll always look back at this season and this team fondly. "Right now it stinks, but it's nice to kind of leave the legacy behind that those guys in 2014 left for us when we were watching them here," he said. "We knew that if we worked hard, we could accomplish the same goals."
Young Creston Panther fans shout a chant in support of the team's defense during Saturday's semifinal game.
Austin Evans agreed, saying the support has been awesome this year. "It was incredible," he said. "It's always a good feeling to see that many people behind you all year."
After 10 years of playing football together, the 25 seniors' time has come to a close.
"We've known these kids since they were little kids playing flag football all the way through junior padded and junior high. They had a tremendous impact on our football program," Morrison said. "These will be the kids that 10 years from now there will be guys saying I want to be like number 32, I want to be like number 4, I want to be like number 45. It's hats off to our kids on how they prepped and how they played for their school and their community."
Creston offensive coordinator Garrison Carter consoles wide receiver Brandon Briley after Saturday's 16-13 loss to Bishop Heelan, ending the Panthers' 11-1 season. Briley became the single-season and career receiving leader for Creston after catching 11 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Crusaders. He had 897 yards receiving this year and career yardage of 1,621 with 17 career touchdowns.
The loss hit the team hard, coaches and players consoling each other.
"There's no better group of guys to play football with," Bolinger said. "I wouldn't switch out my guys for a win, that's for damn sure. I'd rather go down with these guys."
Creston 13, Bishop Heelan 16
Points by quarter
Cr 0 6 0 7 — 13
BH 3 13 0 0 — 16
BH — George Tsiobanos 34-yard field goal, 5:34
BH — Ricky Feauto 37 run (Tsiobanos kick), 8:22
BH — Quinn Olson 5 run (bad kick), 6:39.
CR — Brennan Hayes 2 run (missed 2PT), 3:08
CR — Briley 6 pass from Cael Turner (Hayes kick), 5:58
First downs 21 13
Rushes-yards 32-137 39-234
Passing 24-35-0 5-14-1
Passing yards 253 39
Total yards 390 273
Punts-avg. 3-46 4-38.5
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 8-54 5-30
RUSHING — CR: Hayes 26-139, 1 TD. BH: Feauto 16-108, 1 TD; Olson 14-76, 1 TD. Kasen Thomas 5-73.
PASSING — CR: Turner 24-35-0 for 253 yards, 1 TD. BH: Quinn Olson 4-13-1 for 34 yards.
RECEIVING — CR: Briley 11-101, 1TD; Weston Trapp 6-49; Hayes 3-56; Josh Schaefer 3-42. BH: Kannon Bork 1-16; George Tsiobanos 1-10.
PUNTS-AVG. — CR: McCoy Haines 1-55; Turner 2-41.5. BH: Tsiobanos 3-39.
TACKLE LEADERS (total-solo) — CR: Will Bolinger 9-3; Jack Walter 6-6; Dillon Starlin 4.5-2 BH: Brady Baker 7.5-4; Thomas 7-4; Will Pattee 6-3.
INTERCEPTIONS — CR: Dylan Calvin, 1.
TACKLES FOR LOSS — CR: Lucas Travis 2, Austin Evans 1, Bolinger 1. BH: Max Delaney 1; Bork 1.
SACKS — CR: Travis 0.5, Milo Staver 0.5. WC: None.