Bettendorf had shown flashes of brilliance through the first four weeks of the football season. The Class 4A eighth-ranked Bulldogs painted a four-quarter masterpiece Friday night.
The offense compiled 548 yards and the defense stymied one of the state’s top running backs to 15 yards through three quarters.
It added up to a dominating 44-16 homecoming triumph over No. 7 Muscatine at TouVelle Stadium in the District 7 opener.
“We were due for a big game,” quarterback JMichael Young said. “We didn’t have a lot of errors, turnovers and penalties like past games. We cleaned that stuff up and it showed.”
Young was at the center of it.
The senior rushed for a career-high 232 yards and four touchdowns on just 14 carries. Junior Nijel McIntosh added 118 yards on the ground for the Bulldogs, who had no turnovers and just 45 yards in penalties.
Bettendorf’s offensive line — Cole Webster, Kamrin Arons, Joe Moffitt, Griffen Deere and Mark Kallenberger — manhandled Muscatine’s defensive front. The Bulldogs averaged 9.6 yards per rush on 44 attempts.
“Our offensive line is really starting to play better,” Bettendorf coach Aaron Wiley said. “We’re starting to see some of our guys that didn’t have much experience get better.”
But more than the offensive production, it was Bettendorf’s defense that had Wiley singing his team's praises afterward.
Muscatine tailback Alphonso Soko came into the game with 661 yards rushing, second best in 4A, and had surpassed 120 yards in each of the first four games.
Soko finished with 73 yards, 58 in the fourth quarter, but had nine of his 23 carries result in negative yardage.
“Our front seven just shut him down,” linebacker Keegan Glaus said. “We just brought intensity to practice. We read our keys well and knew what we had to get done.”
Muscatine coach Jake Mueller admitted Bettendorf caught Muscatine (3-2, 0-1) by surprise with an odd defensive front. The Bulldogs used three down linemen for the majority of the contest.
“We weren’t ready,” Mueller said. “It took us a half to get used to that. We didn’t adjust to it quick enough. We knew it was going to be a battle to try and run the ball against them. (Bettendorf’s) front and the two linebackers are really good.”
That made Muscatine virtually one-dimensional. Quarterback Luke Wichers threw for 172 yards and a score.
“We had a lot of guys run to the ball,” Wiley said. “(Soko) is as talented a guy as there is around and has a really bright future. It was just a team deal. Our front seven played outstanding.”
The offense did the rest.
Young had touchdown runs of 21, 20, 80 and 41 yards. Glaus and McIntosh also had rushing touchdowns for the Bulldogs, who led 16-0 at intermission.
Muscatine crawled within 23-8 after Wichers found Nolan Osland for a 42-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but Young responded with an 80-yard touchdown run on a read option on Bettendorf’s next offensive play.
“We always run it, but on this night we exposed their defense a little bit more,” Young said.
“We put a lot on our quarterback’s plate,” Wiley said. “He’s a talented kid and getting better and better. Those long runs are just backbreakers, great athletic plays.”
Bettendorf travels to Clinton next week while Muscatine heads home to play Davenport North.
“Right now, yes, this was our best game, but there are going to be better games to come,” Glaus said.
For Muscatine, it likely will need to win its last four games to make the postseason as only the top two finishers from each district advance.
“There is no margin for error,” Mueller said. “The stakes are high. Our backs are against the wall from here on out.
“We have to have tunnel vision and focus on the next opponent. We can’t look down the road.”