Trenton Kidwell looked at home in his return to the Eldon backfield.
The senior running back led the Mustangs to a dominant win over Catholic, 32-0, in the first round of the Class 3 District 3 playoffs after spending the last eight weeks recovering from an injury.
His eyes filled with emotion while he credited teammates following the game.
“Whenever you’re doing this with all of your friends you grew up with, you don’t feel (the pain of the injury) anymore,” Kidwell said. “It isn’t about me, it’s about them. I played that game for all the people who have helped me.”
Kidwell ran for 127 yards and a touchdown, his second 100-yard game of the 2016 season in only two games. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and entered the year with high expectations. After breaking the 100-yard barrier in Eldon’s 2016 opener, he broke his fibula.
“He was hungry, to say the least, sitting there watching for eight weeks,” coach Shannon Jolley said. “It means a lot for him to have that kind of game. He’s a kid who has been committed to our program since he was a youngster.”
The Mustangs tallied 234 yards on the ground. Junior back Isaiah Merida added 75 yards and a touchdown on 16 runs.
Catholic entered the game as the district’s No. 3 seed but never got its multi-option offense going. It was the first time the Irish were shut out on the season.
“Tonight we saw a defensive group that was a step ahead,” Jolley said. “It was as physical as I’ve seen them. It was definitely fun to watch.”
The first half was especially forgettable for Catholic, which was unable to follow up its stunning home victory last week against Reeds Spring— then state-ranked.
The Irish gave the ball away on their first two possessions, both fumbles.
Catholic’s rushing attack of running back Ramiro Avila and quarterback Tyson Riley combined for more than 1,700 yards in 2016’s first nine games. The Irish totaled 64 yards, led by 54 yards on 15 carries by Avila.
Riley, who averaged 6.2 yards per carry before facing The Mustangs, carried the ball eight times. His longest rush was one yard and the QB netted -17 yards on the ground.
Riley was 8-for-20 passing for 83 yards.
Catholic’s first lost fumble set up a quick short-field touchdown for the Mustangs, punched in on a 2-yard carry by Kidwell.
Eldon tacked on two more touchdowns before intermission, courtesy of some long plays. Quarterback Austin Kempker completed only two first-half passes but made them impactful. The first went for 28 yards and the second was an 82-yard touchdown bomb to Trenton Dillon.
Isaiah Merida ran 35 yards for Eldon’s other early score.
The second half wasn’t much more pleasant for the home fans.
Catholic’s third turnover of the game was an intercepted screen pass returned 54 yards by Eldon senior Jacob Whittle for a touchdown.
Eldon closed the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown catch by Morgan Anderson from Kempker.
Kempker went 4-for-8 in the air for 116 yards and two TDs.
Eldon (6-4) will face the Osage, the district’s No. 2 seed, next week. The Irish end the season at 6-4.