ATLANTIC – Mike McDermott is likely feeling a lot like Willie Nelson these days.
His Atlantic football team is “On the Road Again.”
On a weekend the Trojans had hoped to be toasting its newly renovated Trojan Bowl, the team instead will be making a 60-mile road trip to Glenwood’s new football stadium to host Clarinda.
It was not known if the Trojans will be listening to the Red-Headed Stranger and his iconic 1980 hit country song celebrating life on the road on the way to Friday’s game.
“We kind of knew that coming into the season there was a good chance we’d be on the road for a few games, and that’s just the way it is,” said McDermott, the Atlantic coach. “Our guys are just happy to play.”
The good news is that Glenwood’s football facility – completed last year using proceeds from its own bond referendum – is a nice facility that the Trojans are looking forward to competing on.
The Trojans will be the host team against a Clarinda team that they are 1-1 against the past two seasons. The Trojans rallied from an early deficit but couldn’t complete the comeback in a 34-20 loss to the Cardinals last year.
With three road games under their belt, the Trojans are 2-1, fresh off a convincing 31-18 win over Greene County. The Trojans got some clutch rushing yards from Bodie Johnson, who turned his effort into three touchdowns, and forced three turnovers – two interceptions and a fumble recovery – while not turning the ball over themselves.
Some Atlantic fans might be surprised their favorite team is 2-1, but not the Trojans or the coaches.
“Our kids certainly aren’t (surprised),” said McDermott. “They approach every week with that underdog mentality and it’s really no different this week. Clarinda’s picked to finish above us right now, but we’ve got a chance to spoil those pre-season projections.”
The Cardinals are 1-2 but those two losses are to two pretty good teams, Treynor and Panorama. They did pick up their first win last Friday night against Red Oak, 49-6.
In the rout over the Tigers, seven different ball carriers rushed for 223 yards, and sophomore quarterback Wyatt Schmitt picked up his first win under center with 113 yards passing on 5-of-9 passing and a touchdown. Grant Jobe had the scoring catch for 21 yards.
For the season, the Cardinals tend to pass more than rush, with Schmitt 28-of-56 for 401 yards and four touchdowns. The big weapon is senior Michael Shull, who moved from quarterback to feature wide receiver and so far has 166 receiving yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Tadyn Brown is the top rusher with 124 yards and three scores.
Cole Ridnour is the anchor of the Cardinals defensive line, with 15 solo tackles and six tackles for loss. Five different players have fumble recoveries, with Shull also grabbing an interception.
The Trojans have scored first each of the past two weeks, and both times it meant an eventual victory.
“We’ve been out trying to score first,” said McDermott. “When we have, it’s been a big lift to our football club. It’s no different this week. Clarinda’s really strong up front. Their front five on both sides of the ball, both offense and defense, is going to be bigger than us. But we’ve seen that the past three weeks and hopefully we can find some seams in the run game when we’re working on developing our pass game, too.”
Forcing turnovers have been a point of emphasis the past couple of weeks, and having a plus-three turnover ratio went a long way toward securing victory against Greene County. That total included Bodie Johnson’s 25-yard pick-six that put away the Rams. Grant Sturm also had an interception while Colin Mullenix recovered a fumble.
“That’s critical in every game and it’s going to be critical this week too, how well we take care of the ball and how many turnovers we can get,” said McDermott. “Just as impressive as those three turnovers was we didn’t give up the ball at all.”
Johnson ended with 107 yards, while Korey Parrott picked up 79 yards to help the Trojans end with 237 yards on the ground. The Trojans, though, will be working on the pass game as McDermott said he hopes to put the ball into the air more.
Johnson has 180 yards on 28 carries so far this season; Parrott’s got 155 yards on 36 tries.
One of the big keys, McDemott said, is how well his team can handle the Clarinda front line and tackle well. Rushing the ball and third-down efficiency are also being seen as critical to the Trojans’ hopes, he said.
Game time is 7 p.m.