OAKLAND — After trading touchdowns with Doniphan-Trumbull to start the game, Oakland-Craig abruptly took control with 42 unanswered points in a 50-16 win in a Class C2 state playoff quarterfinal here Friday.
And the Knights did it up front.
"Our line says, 'Let's run it.' They want to run it. They wanted to win this for (senior quarterback) Colton (Thomsen). To have one of their captains and leaders out, they really stepped up and just dominated the whole night," Oakland-Craig coach Joe Anderson said. "We were pretty vanilla tonight, but it's nice when you can lean on those boys up front."
Bullying their way to 382 rushing yards on 49 carries while attempting only one pass in the game, the Knights limited the Cardinals' high-powered offense to 240 yards of total offense — with 131 of those coming in Doniphan-Trumbull’s first and final possessions of the game.
"It was just getting a feel for their blocking scheme, and we didn't tackle real well on that first drive," Anderson said. "Once our kids kind of adjusted to their speed, I thought our defense played lights out against a team that's really explosive on the offensive side."
In between, they surrendered 109 yards and no points to a team that averaged 38.9 points and over 400 yards of total offense while building a 9-1 record before Friday.
"On the first drive of the game, I didn't play so well. But then we really stepped up and delivered," senior Ian Lundquist said.
Lundquist more than did his part offensively, finishing the game with 130 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. By the time he scored on runs of 26 and 18 yards in the second quarter, the Knights led 38-8. A 2-yard touchdown run by Caden Nelson after Lundquist had returned the Cardinal punt to the 29-yard line gave Oakland-Craig a 50-8 halftime lead.
Nelson, who finished with 62 yards on 12 carries, also scored the game's opening touchdown to cap a drive that began with Lundquist rushing four times for 42 yards and added a 1-yard run for a score less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Coming between Nelson's scores was an electrifying 64-yard sweep to by junior Coulter Thiele, who racked up 109 yards on eight carries, that put the Knights ahead for good at 14-8 with 4 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first quarter.
"Anderson emphasized at the start of the game that if we just came out and punched them in the mouth, then that's going to set up the rest of the game," Lundquist said. "And it did tonight."
The emphasis on running the ball helped sophomore quarterback Grady Gatewood — making his first start with Thomsen and his 1,088 passing yards sidelined after suffering an injury in last week's 28-26 first-round win over 15th-seeded Hartington Cedar Catholic — focus on managing the game rather than trying to duplicate the heroics he provided with a fourth-down touchdown pass on his first snap of the game that gave the Knights the lead for good in the third quarter against Cedar Catholic.
With junior Jaron Meyer adding nine carries for 71 yards, including the third-quarter touchdown that gave the Knights a 50-8 lead with 2:53 left, the weapons behind him helped him as much as the ones in front of him.
"Grady can throw the ball a little bit, but we didn't have to tonight. He's just a gamer. He went out and just managed the football game. He got us in the right plays, made the right checks and the guys executed really well," Anderson said. "And then we got downhill, but it's easy to get downhill when you have a good crease. Our line told them all week that they were going to get them a crease.”
At 11-0, Oakland-Craig will host third-seeded St. Paul (11-0) in Friday's semifinal round.
"We're really excited, but next week is another game," Lundquist said. "We're going to focus on St. Paul."
Class C2 quarterfinal
Doniphan-Trumbull (9-2) 8 0 0 8 — 16
Oakland-Craig (11-0) 14 30 6 0 — 50
O-C: Caden Nelson 1 run (Ian Lundquist run), 7:40
D-T: Keithan Stafford 9 run (Chris Vincent pass from Griffin Hendricks), 5:07
O-C: Coulter Thiele 64 run (pass failed), 4:26
O-C: Nelson 1 run (Thiele run), 10:11
O-C: Lundquist 26 run (Thiele run), 7:05
O-C: Lundquist 15 run (Lundquist run), 1:55
O-C: Nelson 2 run (run failed), :18
O-C: Jaron Meyer 6 run (pass failed), 2:53
D-T: Cole Essex 5 pass from Hendricks (Essex from Hendricks), :18