A look back at some highlights for the opening weekend of high school football playoffs.
As usual, check out the Sunday editions of The News-Gazette for the updated arwa football rankings:
A RARE OPPORTUNITY
With 13 schools in the Heart of Illinois Conference, it’s impossible for all league schools to play one another during the nine-game regular season. In the second week of the playoffs, LeRoy will get the chance to play at an HOIC school that it has not faced yet this season. The Panthers will travel to Lexington.
HISTORY OF SUCCESS
Success has been an integral part of the football playing careers of the four Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley seniors who have been teammates since third grade. Twins Austin and Mackenzie Seneca, Ross Perkins and Michael Romshek were part of the first youth football program started in the community in 2000. As fourth-graders, they advanced to the championship game in their age division, and as sixth- and eighth-graders, they played for the victorious teams in the Junior Football League program. Another current senior, Stephan Birt, joined the foursome as a fourth-grader. In the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs on Saturday, the fifth-rated Class 2A Falcons were triumphant, 25-6, against Port Byron Riverdale.
A FITTING MOVE
The week’s rains forced Mount Carmel administrators to move their first-round Class 4A playoff game against Mahomet-Seymour to Evansville, Ind. It was somehow appropriate that the school (Mount Carmel) which played six Indiana high schools this season would be the first in state history to play a postseason game out of state. Mount Carmel eliminated the Bulldogs 31-25.
DIFFERENT DAY, DIFFERENT RESULT
Villa Grove received a second chance on the same field to avenge one of its regular season losses, and the Blue Devils took advantage Saturday. On Sept. 11, VG lost to visiting Tri-County by a point. The rematch went to coach Chad Musselman’s team by five points thanks to two touchdown runs by workhorse junior John Turner.
DOUBLING THEIR PLEASURE
Three Danville players reached double figures in tackling in the Vikings’ 50-0 conquest of Oak Lawn. Justin March had a team-high 12 stops while Quintin Brown and Keith Mayfield were each in on 10 tackles. With back-to-back shutouts, Danville has beaten its last two opponents 104-0.
ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO AN END
Until Saturday, Westville’s football program had accomplished a feat unmatched by any other area school. The Tigers had never lost a first-round playoff game in seven years of postseason competition. That streak ended with a 27-6 Class 2A loss at Marshall.
Watseka defeated Iroquois West 34-20 on Thursday in a season-ending game which was tied 20-20 in the final quarter. Marcel Maiden scored two TDs to put the Warriors ahead to stay. The game was a makeup of a scheduled Oct. 23 contest at Gilman that was not played due to a flu outbreak that closed Watseka’s schools for two days. For purposes of the IHSA standings, Iroquois West (2-7) earned a forfeit win against Watseka (4-5). ... In 24 quarters of football on its home field, Tuscola has allowed one touchdown this season. ... In its final 11 quarters of the season, Urbana’s only points came on two safeties. ... GCMS’ next game is at home against Aledo Mercer County, the school Cully Welter coached last year before heading to Monticello, where he has spearheaded the Sages’ revival. ... Coaches from Oak Lawn Richards arrived in Danville early Saturday to scout the Vikings’ game and they knew where to go for lunch. The staff stopped at the downtown Varsity Room restaurant, which is operated by Danville assistant coach Steve Luke and his brother Ned. ... After hauling in two TD passes at Staunton, Bismarck-Henning’s Adam Baker has caught five of the team’s seven scoring strikes this season.
BRANDON NOE, St. Thomas More. Defensive linemen often aren’t in the limelight, but the senior tackle reached double figures in tackles for the undefeated Sabers.
MICHAEL GRANT, Bismarck-Henning. While underclassmen have gained the majority of the team’s yards this season, it has been the senior leader at quarterback who keeps his composure and comes up with big plays time and again.
VAUGHAN PIERCE, Monticello. Senior doubled his season touchdown total, reaching the end zone three times as the Sages outscored Camp Point by 17 points in a shootout.
BLAKE HOVELN, St. Joseph-Ogden. On a soggy field, sophomore completed 9 of 10 first-half passes for 172 yards, leading the Spartans past Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac on Friday.
OFFENSIVE LINE, Unity. The Rockets’ blockers helped the team average more than 10 yards per play during the first half of a playoff romp against Robinson at Hicks Field.
TEAMS OF THE WEEK
Kicker Ian Park won an early-season game for the Blue Devils with an overtime field goal. On Saturday, his extra-point conversion in overtime was the difference as visiting B-H stunned a Staunton team which had started the season with eight successive wins.
On the day that his brother Ben closed to within 10 yards of 2,500 passing for the season, Matt Palla eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in receptions with a 207-yard effort that lifts his season total to 1,081. Ben Palla’s 393-yard showing included five touchdown passes.