Errors doom Mercer County

Robert Blackford/Editor
Tanner Matlick throws the ball in traffic Saturday.

The Mercer County Golden Eagles came to an end Saturday against Clifton Central in the second round of Class 2A football playoffs.

The Comets defeated the Golden Eagles 56-29.

“They were more physical than us,” said Mercer County head coach Nat Zunkel after the contest. “We have to challenge ourselves to become more physical in the offseason.” Zunkel added, “Losing sucks.”

For the second week in a row the Golden Eagles dug themselves a hole early in the contest.

Comet David Payne returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown giving Clifton Central a 6-0 lead 12 seconds into the contest.

Less than two minutes later Comet Bret Johnson intercepted a Tanner Matlick pass and returned it to the Mercer County one-yard line. With 10 minutes remaining in the first quarter Kyle Frake gave the Comets a 12-0 lead with a one-yard dive for a touchdown.

The Comets added two more touchdowns in the first quarter. The Comets scored on a 48-yard touchdown run by Payne and on a blocked punt which Payne took into the endzone. With 1:39 remaining in the first quarter the Comets led 28-0.

With 11:44 Frake returned another interception 55 yards for the touchdown.

“When you give away four scores without their offense on the field you don’t give yourself a chance,” said Zunkel. “They are a very good football team.”

Mercer County got on the board immediately afterward as Cale Muske returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for the touchdown.

The Comets weren’t finished though. With a comfortable lead Trent Faulkner went to work through the air connecting on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Frake.

Payne scored again on a 67-yard run giving the Comets a 49-7 lead.

The Golden Eagles got on the board again late in the second period as Austin Skiles scored on a 60-yard run.

The Golden Eagles trailed 47-13 at the half.

The Comets came out and scored at the 6:41 mark in the third quarter on a four-yard run by Payne.

Skiles answered back for Mercer County returning an interception 75 yards for a touchdown cutting the Comets lead to 56-19.

Shaun Peterson got the Golden Eagles on the board one more time with a 70-yard punt return with 6:07 remaining in the contest.

It was the final score of the game.

“These kids are terrific,” added Zunkel, referring to his Golden Eagles team. “I’m going to miss these seniors. They took over the baton from the Aledo and Westmer programs and ran with it.”

Zunkel compared this year’s loss to last year’s season ending loss to GCMS, also in the second round of the playoffs. “We have a much better football team than the score indicated."