MARION, Iowa -- With the winter-like conditions settling in on Friday night, one might have thought the weather was a notch in Muscatine's favor.
With the Muskies' run-heavy attack and Linn-Mar's offense predicated on the arm of Mason Orr, Muscatine probably didn't mind the forecast.
However, the Muskies failed to make what head coach Jake Mueller refers to as the "winning plays" in a 35-19 road loss.
With the exception of a big run to start the second half, the Lions relied mostly on nickel-and-dime throws to pick away at the Muscatine defense. And Linn-Mar had tremendous success doing so, riding Orr and company to the tune of a 16-point win at Linn-Mar Stadium for the Lions' homecoming.
The Muskies received the opening kick, but couldn’t get much going beyond a Nimely first-down carry before surrendering a punt.
Linn-Mar then marched down the field on a 14-play drive that ate up over seven minutes of clock, getting their first score with a little over two minutes left in the opening quarter on a five-yard pass from Orr to Jeron Senters.
Capping off drives with points was proved difficult again for Muscatine.
On their second drive, the Muskies managed to get inside the Linn-Mar 10, but on third and five, quarterback Jake Draves rolled to his right and threw it away while under pressure but was shaken up on a hit. On fourth down, the Muskies ran a wildcat formation in which Nimely took a direct snap but was ultimately tackled short of the first down marker.
Containing Orr and the Lion passing game proved to be a tough challenge for Muskies, as Orr finished with 199 yards and four touchdowns. Furthermore, he only had six incompletions on 25 attempts, including a stretch that saw him complete 10 in a row leading up to the halftime break.
"Linn-Mar is a really good football team," Mueller said. "Their quarterback is really good, he puts the ball on top, where it needs to be put and their receivers do a good job, they're a tough offense to prepare for ... (Orr) can put it wherever he wants."
Before the break, the Muskies did get inside the Lion 20-yard line. But Linn-Mar forced a turnover on downs. On a third-down throw, Draves took a shot from a Lion defender and did not return the rest of the game.
Zander Morgan took most of the snaps at quarterback, but Sam Wieskamp also saw some time as the Muscatine signal-caller before all was said and done.
"Honestly, we didn't make many halftime adjustments," Mueller said. "We felt like the gameplan was good going in, we just didn't do a good job of execution.
"We didn't do a good job of dealing with some adversity."
Linn-Mar took a 21-0 lead into the break and added to it quickly to start the third quarter. The Lions got a big return on the opening kick of the second half, and capped off a three-play scoring drive with a 40-yard touchdown run by Bricen White to extend the lead to 28-0.
Muscatine managed to recover four Linn-Mar fumbles throughout the game, three of which came in the fourth quarter, which set up the Muskies for all of their 19 fourth-quarter points.
Nimely reached the end zone twice. The Muscatine back finished with 128 yards on 19 carries. And the third score came via a 15-yard hookup between Morgan and receiver Eli Gaye.
"They made the winning plays in the first half when it mattered and we didn't," Mueller said. "We had opportunities again in the red zone to make some winning plays and we didn't. And that's both frustrating and disappointing."