MUSCATINE, Iowa — Right thoughts, right actions.
An inconsistent first half for the Muscatine High School football team was forgotten in a flurry of rushes from tailback Austin Moss, scoring two touchdowns as the Muskies defeated Clinton 21-7 at Muscatine High School Friday night.
Moss finished with 146 yards on 34 carries after entering halftime with just 22 yards on seven carries.
Muscatine (3-1) didn't see the yellow flag as often in Friday's match either, as the most penalized team in the Mississippi Athletic Conference entering Week 4 only drew four fouls for 40 yards.
"They came out and finally looked like the team I envisioned us being," Muscatine coach Jake Mueller said. "We were physical, we came out and ran the ball, and I'm proud that we limited [Clinton's] big plays."
Neither team was overly impressive in the first half, but Muscatine ended the second quarter on a high note.
Muscatine quarterback Clayton Sloan evaded two blitzing River Kings, ran across the width of the field and threw a long pass to a sprinting Spencer Beatty for a 57-yard touchdown that evened the score at 7 with 2 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the half.
"Once you turn the corner for that vertical route, you don't notice [defenders] at least until you catch it," Beatty said. "I didn't look back that much, just caught it and ran — we needed the points and it happened quickly."
For Sloan, it was redemption following an interception and fumble in Muscatine territory, the latter of which led to Clinton's lone touchdown, a 4-yard Dustin Caldwell run after Sloan fumbled on the 3.
"Clayton throwing to Spencer was huge, we needed that shot in the arm and it came at the right time," Mueller said.
The Muskies not only got the points on the board before the first half concluded, but also had plenty to be happy about defensively.
Clinton was held under 100 yards as a team in the first two quarters, and Clinton's 6-foot-8 wide receiver Brady Ernst was held in check by Muscatine's 5-foot-11 Jon Centeno. Ernst did not record a catch Friday night despite three targets.
"Centeno did an absolute fantastic job," Moss said. "He worked on one of our taller receivers in practice getting ready for that and he did a great job shutting him down."
When the homecoming court had been introduced and the Muskies took the field in the third quarter, it was Moss' turn.
Muscatine's first drive of the third quarter was 11 plays long, and Moss rushed in 10 of those plays, including his first score, a 12-yard dash to end a five-minute drive.
Moss often brushed off his first tackler and forced the River Kings to pile on to slow his momentum.
"Austin, he just goes so hard. He's a quiet leader and once you see him go, everyone just stops and watches," Beatty said. "He leads by his actions."
Without Ernst, Clinton's offense was stagnant, held without a first down in the third quarter and only accumulating seven chain-moving plays in the game.
"They've got weapons on offense and we played tough on D," Mueller said. "It's probably the best game we've played all around in all three phases. When we needed to make plays, we made them."
Next up is Bettendorf, always a contentious matchup, and this time around in Muscatine's backyard.
"We're always ready for that competition," Beatty said. "Tonight, we're happy with this win and we're going to celebrate a bit, but come next week we're ready to play."