DAVENPORT, Iowa − Bad habits resurfaced, and the Muscatine football team (2-6, 2-2) was forced to watch as its playoff hopes were washed away Friday night by costly mistakes in a 40-7 district loss against Davenport Central at Brady Street Stadium.
Muscatine coach Jake Mueller knew before the game that the Muskies would need all three facets of the game at their best against a Blue Devils team that features one of the top offenses in Class 4A District 7.
While Muscatine’s defense did its job early on, holding Davenport Central to just 82 total yards and five first downs in the first half, the offense struggled to hold on to the ball, much less move it.
“Defensively, I thought we played outstanding,” Mueller said. “Our coaches had a great plan for them, and our kids executed. As a team we just didn’t get the job done. Too many errors, costly errors, in the first half. That’s a game we should have been in until the end.”
A fumble with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter at the Muskies’ one-yard line set up a one-yard rushing score on the next play from Blue Devils’ senior running back Jatoviay Hill.
The Muscatine offense answered on its next drive with a 15-yard touchdown run by freshman Timothy Nimely that was set up by a Jackson Foulk fumble recovery in Davenport Central territory, but then fell silent from there.
With under two minutes remaining before halftime, junior Carson Orr threw an interception that was returned 96 yards for a touchdown, and the Blue Devils recovered the ensuing kickoff in Muskie territory on what appeared to be an accidental onside kick. The recovery set up a 15-yard score from Hill and gave Davenport Central a 20-7 cushion heading into halftime.
Hill helped the Blue Devils run away with a rout in the second half, punching the ball into the end zone twice more on 1-yard and 52-yard rushes.
The senior finished with 22 carries for 188 yards and four touchdowns as Muscatine became the latest in a long line of teams that have been burned by the elusive back this season.
“(Davenport Central) has very good football players on their team,” Mueller said. “If you give them hand-gifted opportunities, they’re going to take advantage of it, and they did. They have a good team.”
For Muscatine, Orr struggled under center in his third start of the season, completing 10 of 20 passes for 25 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He also was sacked three times, losing 15 total yards.
Getting the most carries at running back for the second straight game, Nimely rushed for just 35 yards on 15 carries but did account for Muscatine’s only score of the night.
While the loss took them out of the playoff discussion and secured a spot in the postseason for Davenport Central, the Muskies still have a home game against Clinton next Friday to conclude the season.
“I’m proud of the effort we gave, we just didn’t play well enough to win,” Mueller said. “But our effort was good, and we’ve got one more week on our journey together. We’re going to stay together and try to give our seniors a win on senior night.”