WE’LL TAKE A LOOK BACK AT A MEMORABLE MOMENT IN PREPS HISTORY, THANKS TO THE WORDS OF THE NEWS-GAZETTE
This week: LeRoy's football team is trying to reach the state semifinals this weekend. The Panthers won it all in 1996.
Date: Nov. 30, 1996
Headline: Panthers claw back
LeRoy wins 2A title with fourth-quarter rally
NORMAL — LeRoy’s Panthers refused to give up on their dream to be Class 2A state football champions.
While Moweaqua A&M did everything it could to extinguish the dream while building a 14-0 lead in the first three quarters Friday, the Panthers rallied for a 16-14 victory at Illinois State University’s Hancock Stadium.
“These kids demonstrated again today how they’ve stayed together as a team all season,” Jim Zeleznik said after the stirring comeback that completed a 14-0 season for the state’s top-ranked Class 2A team.
“There was no dissension on the sidelines even when we were behind 14-0. They’ve always believed in each other and always given it everything they had, whether it was in a game or lifting weights.”
That togetherness was put to the test Friday as Central A&M completely dominated play on both sides of the ball in the first three quarters.
The Raiders appeared to be on their way to a state championship after finishing second in 1992 and again last November.
Tailback Perry Jordan’s 1-yard run climaxed a 61-yard first-quarter drive for the first Raider touchdown.
Drew Moore’s 2-yard run followed by quarterback Wes Temples' two-point conversion pass to Ross Forlines increased the lead to 14-0 midway through the third period.
The Raiders were in LeRoy territory on three other occasions as they ran 56 plays from scrimmage in the first three quarters compared with 36 for the Panthers.
LeRoy forced a punt on the first Raider venture into Panther territory. Mike Pfeiffer recovered a Jordan fumble on the Panther 31 to end the second. Jeff Legner intercepted a Temples pass on the LeRoy 4 to halt the third.
The Panther offense ignited the comeback by marching 75 yards in 16 plays, with quarterback Mike Pfeiffer contributing the big plays.
His 11-yard pass to Jake Maxedon kept the drive alive.
Pfeiffer also contributed a 15-yard gain on a quarterback sneak to set up Jake Roop’s 2-yard run off left tackle for the score. Roop went off right guard for the two conversion points to cut the lead to 14-8 with 8:36 left in the game.
The defense then rose to the occasion to give the offense two more scoring opportunities.
The Raider defense held after Jeff Company intercepted a Temples pass to give LeRoy the ball on the A&M 29. Jake Qualls recovered a bad pitch from Temples to Jordan two plays later to give the Panthers still another chance on the Raider 23. This time the Panthers did not fail. Roop’s 14-yard tackle-breaking run around left end to the 1 set up Pfeiffer’s sneak to tie the score. Roop then took Pfeiffer’s option pitch around right end for the deciding two conversion points.
“I talked with (offensive coordinator) Gary Tipsord after we’d cut the lead to 14-8,” Zeleznik said, “and we both agreed to go for two points if we scored again. We’ve been going for two points all season. It’s just a philosophy we have.
“I felt good about our chances after we scored our first touchdown. We have worn people down in the second half all season, and that was true again today.”
Central A&M coach Mark Ramsey agreed LeRoy’s depth and no-huddle offense took their toll on the Raiders.
“I think we were a little winded toward the end of the game,” Ramsey said. “I was hoping the adrenaline would take over. It did for LeRoy.
“We made some costly mistakes as well. We tried an option and didn’t get a good pitch. We also had a pass intercepted. They had brought their linebackers in close and were daring us to throw. They were not going to let us run down the clock.”