Morningside turned Saturday’s GPAC showdown into an early rout when the sixth-ranked Mustangs rolled to a 69-7 blowout win.
Tanner Ver Steeg
Saturday’s showdown at Elwood Olsen Stadium between sixth-ranked Morningside and No. 3 Doane quickly turned into a non-contest when the Mustangs demolished their opponent 69-7 to take control of the GPAC football race.
The Mustangs took a major step towards winning a sixth consecutive league title by dominating a game that featured the only two remaining unbeaten teams in the conference standings.
Morningside, which suffered a 35-31 loss at perennial NCAA Division III kingpin Wisconsin-Whitewater two weeks ago, climbed to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the GPAC. Doane fell to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the GPAC. The Tigers lost for only the second time in their last 20 regular season games, with both losses coming against Morningside by a combined margin of 124-14.
The Mustangs piled up 606 yards total offense, including 500 yards through the air, to go over the 600-yard mark for the 21st time in their last 32 games. Morningside had 450 yards in the first half alone when it built an insurmountable 62-0 lead by the intermission.
Doane held the opposition to an 18.1-point scoring average while winning its first five games, but the Mustangs exceeded that total before the first quarter was over. Morningside’s offensive line provided its quarterbacks with ample time to pick the Tigers’ secondary apart and allowed only one sack against a Doane defense that entered the game sixth in the nation with 17 quarterback sacks.
The game was decided early. The Mustang defense forced Doane into a three-and-out on the opening offensive possession of the game. Morningside then went 48 yards in two plays on a 12-yard run by Tyler Kavan and a 36-yard touchdown pass from Trent Solsma to Tanner Ver Steeg, and the rout was on.
Solsma’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Ver Steeg was the first of five scoring throws by the Mustangs’ sophomore quarterback, whose day was finished midway through the second quarter after he completed 10 of 13 throws for 284 yards. Solsma threw three more touchdown passes in the opening quarter after his early strike to Ver Steeg with TD passes of 37 and 76 yards to Michael Whitehead and a 15-yard TD throw to Zach Knicky to lead the hosts to a 27-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Solsma’s last pass of the game resulted in a 60-yard touchdown to Dom Flemister to put the Mustangs in front 48-0 with 8:58 left in the second quarter.
The passing game didn’t miss a beat after Addison Ross took over for the Mustangs’ starter. Ross hurled second quarter touchdown passes of 71 yards to Ver Steeg and 41 yards to Flemister and finished the game with nine completions in 13 attempts for a career-high 212 yards and two touchdowns. Ross scored the Mustangs’ lone touchdown of the second half on a one-yard run with 5:01 left in the third quarter.
Kavan scored the 49th touchdown of his Morningside career on a one-yard run with 11:18 left in the second quarter and the Mustangs’ defense also got into the scoring act when linebacker Luke Grooters picked up a Doane fumble and ran 40 yards to the end zone at the 12:07 mark of the second quarter. The fumble came when Doane quarterback Trev Lovell, who started in place of the injured Jack Shadley, was hit while being sacked by Mustang defensive end Luke Gibbs.
Morningside’s defense held Doane in check all day and didn’t give up a score until the Tigers’ starters scored against the Mustangs’ reserves with two seconds left in the game. The Mustangs held their opponent to a single digit scoring total for the second time this season and lowered their defensive scoring average to 13.8 points per game.
The Mustangs had not one, not two, but three different receivers go over 100 yards for the game. Ver Steeg led the way with four catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Whitehead was next with three receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and the freshman Flemister had the first 100-yard game of his career with three catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Dante Anderson came off the bench to rush for 70 yards in only six carries in the second half and lead the Mustangs’ ground attack for the second week in a row.
Britton Barrier led the Mustangs’ defense with five solos and four assists for nine tackles. Taylor James was right behind with eight tackles, including a team-high six solo stops. Gibbs, Logan Rozeboom and Garrit Shanle all had quarterback sacks, while Hunter East and Jacob Katzer combined on another. The Mustangs forced three turnovers with fumble recoveries by Grooters and Chase Reis and an interception by Darrian Turk.
Morningside will travel to Fremont, Neb., next Saturday to face 21st-ranked Midland.