CARROLL, Iowa — Carroll’s Dayton Ross caught 38 passes for 710 yards last year, before adding about 25 pounds of muscle in the offseason.
The senior’s pass-catching skills haven’t diminished.
Ross caught five passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns — all in the first half — and added a fourth score on a four-yard run, finishing with 315 total yards as state No. 4 Carroll ran away from No. 3 Creston/Orient-Macksburg 49-21 to claim the Class 3-A, District 7 championship Friday at the Carroll Athletic Field.
Carroll, also rated first in western Iowa (Class 4-A/3-A) by The World-Herald, completed a 9-0 regular season and a 7-0 run through the powerhouse district. The Tigers will play host to a first-round playoff game on Friday. Western Iowa No. 2 Creston dropped to 8-1 and 6-1 and will advance to the playoffs as the district runner-up.
The playoff pairings will be announced at 10 a.m. Saturday morning on www.ihssn.com.
Even with the added weight and becoming Carroll’s top running back, Ross thinks he could remain a top pass-catching threat “as long as I kept my speed and my hands. I like being able to do both, because it makes me more of a threat.”
The Creston defense can vouch for that. Ross caught scoring passes of 70, 40 and 16 yards in the first half from Kolby Molinsky, as Carroll built a 28-14 lead at the intermission.
Ross finished with 22 carries for 171 yards, giving him 315 yards of total offense. Carroll finished with 521 total yards, scoring on seven of its eight possessions.
“He was an amazing receiver last year, and he’s doing it all again this year,” Carroll coach Dennis McCartan said.
With the district title on the line, McCartan couldn’t have been more pleased with his squad.
“Words don’t even describe how proud I am of these guys,” he said. “They set their sights so high last March and April. It’s easy to put it on paper. It’s hard to take it to the field, and they did that last winter, last spring, last summer.”
Chase Shiltz pulled Creston within 35-21 with 43.3 seconds left in the third quarter on an 11-yard touchdown run. The Panthers then recovered an onside kick. But Carroll held on downs, and then drove 94 yards in eight plays for the backbreaking score. Molinsky had a 27-yard completion to Koby Paulsen on the drive, and Ross sprinted 44 yards up the middle on a run to set up Molinsky’s 10-yard scoring pass to Zach Promes that made it 42-21 with 6:21 remaining.
Molinsky finished 8 for 12 for 205 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
The Carroll defense held Shiltz, the Creston star, to 95 rushing yards on 22 carries.
McCartan said the intelligence of his players makes calling the game easy.
“I give it up to these kids for being smart,” he said. “They were calling plays for me, literally. They were just saying, ‘This play’s going to work. Run this play.”’
Ross said winning a district title was very satisfying, given the strength of the district.
“We knew coming into this year, we had Glenwood, Creston, Harlan and even Winterset brought it,” he said. “We knew every game was going to be tough.”
Creston/O-M (8-1, 6-1)...... 7 7 7 0—21
At Carroll (9-0, 7-0)...........14 14 7 14—49
Carroll: Dayton Ross 70 pass from Kolby Molinsky (Peyton Raymond kick)
Creston: Gavin Woods 25 pass from Chase Shiltz (Evan Jacobson kick)
Carroll: Ross 40 pass from Molinsky (Raymond kick)
Creston: Shiltz 11 run (Jacobson kick)
Carroll: Ethan Rummel 3 run (Raymond kick)
Carroll: Ross 16 pass from Molinsky (Raymond kick)
Carroll: Ross 4 run (Raymond kick)
Creston: Shiltz 11 run (Jacobson kick)
Carroll: Zach Promes 10 pass from Molinsky (Raymond kick)
Carroll: Dylan Millermon 80 run (Raymond kick)
Rushing: Cres, Chase Shiltz 22-95, Mitchel Swank 12-49, Kylan Smallwood 7-48, Zach Carlson 4-17. Carr, Dayton Ross 22-171, Ethan Rummel 17-59, Dylan Millermon 2-84, Kolby Molinsky 1-2.
Passing: Cres, Kylan Smallwood 4-8-0, 24 yards; Chase Shiltz 1-6-0, 25 yards. Carr, Kolby Molinsky 8-12-0, 205 yards, 4 TDs.
Receiving: Cres, Gavin Woods 1-25, Chase Shiltz 2-12, Jackson Mikkelsen 2-12. Carr, Dayton Ross 5-147, Zach Promes 2-31, Koby Paulsen 1-27.