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The Louisa-Muscatine football team breaks its huddle after a 42-0 win at Columbus Community. The Falcons are 2-1 on the season.

COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa – Columbus Community stacked eight to ten players in the box at times Friday night. The Wildcats’ field had turned into a mud pit after several consecutive days of rain. And Louisa-Muscatine center Sam Kessel had surgery earlier in the day to repair a broken ankle, forcing the Falcons to move each of their offensive linemen into a different spot than they played a week ago.

Still, Louisa-Muscatine coach Eric Gabe again stuck with the ground attack Friday night and left Columbus Junction with a 42-0 win.

“I don’t think we played really well tonight at times,” Gabe said. “Hats off to (Columbus Community), they did a really good job of just being able to put pressure in places. They scouted us and did some good things.”

Simply looking at the scoreboard, it’s hard to find much to complain about after a 42-point shutout victory.

But the Falcons had very few long-sustained drives, with many of their touchdowns resulting on home run plays. Less than a minute into the game, Karson Cantrell broke free for a 31-yard touchdown run. L-M quarterback Chase Kruse made it 14-0 just before the end of the first quarter with a five-yard touchdown run, one of only two scoring plays that went fewer than 30 yards.

“It’s not all coaching, let’s just say that,” Gabe said about his explosive playmakers. “We have some kids who can go the distance when you put the ball in their hands.”

Max McCulley rushed for a 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and with just under 4 minutes remaining in the half, Chase Kruse’s second pass attempt of the night founded Cody Calvelage, who had escaped behind everyone in the Columbus secondary and scored from 74 yards out.

After playing a scoreless third quarter, Kruse connected with Cantrell for a 2-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and Calvelage capped the scoring with a 72-yard touchdown with 5:41 remaining in the game.

“I think we all had a few big plays,” McCulley said. “Our quarterback, Chase Kruse, he blocked a ball, knocked it down, almost caught it. I was in there, I was all over. Cody, our safety, he’s finally figuring out how to play it, and he’s doing really well. He’s coming in and blowing people up, and I think it’s all starting to fall in place.”

Maybe most impressively is the Falcons were able to make those big plays on a field that Gabe described as a sponge.

“The mud definitely made us all slip and fall a little bit, but I think it was fun for everyone around,” McCulley said. “Even Columbus (Community), we were all helping each other up, smiling at each other and telling each other good job.”

After watching the previous opponents move the ball at will against them, Columbus coach Scott Symonds was pleased with how his team fought in the second half.

In addition to holding the Falcons scoreless in the third quarter and to just 14 points total in the second half, the Wildcats also forced a pair of turnovers.

“We played a good second half,” Symmonds said. “Especially our young kids stepped up and played a lot better in the second half. First half, we were a bit shell-shocked, especially our youth movement. We gathered ourselves really well in the second half.

“We tackled better, we pursued better, we played harder defensively.”

The Wildcats (0-3) will try to continue that momentum when they play at North Cedar next Friday.

The Falcons (2-1), meanwhile, will face Mediapolis on homecoming. Losing Kessel, who Gabe described as a spark for the team, is a big loss, but the first-year coach is hopeful the junior will return before the end of the season.

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