A look back at some of the Week 9 area high school football highlights.
Check out Sunday's News-Gazette for updated area rankings and complete playoff pairings.
SAGES’ COMEBACK IMPRESSIVE
Of all the 0-9 football teams in the state in 2008, none did a better job of turning their program around in a year than Monticello. The playoff-bound Sages were 7-2 in Cully Welter’s first season at the school. The only programs to go from 0-9 to 6-3 this year were Lincoln-Way North and Chicago Phillips. Beyond those three schools, no other 0-9 team from last year won more than three games this fall.
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley honored its 18 seniors (who make up more than half of the 34-player varsity) before Friday’s game with Fisher. Most have played all four years at GCMS, but four players are in their 10th year of playing together. Twins Austin and Mackenzie Seneca, Michael Romshek and Cameron Thomas have been teammates since third grade. A year later, Stephan Birt transferred in and joined the foursome in the pee wee league.
For the first time in 17 years — but the ninth time in the 36 years of the playoffs — there will not be a representative from Champaign-Urbana’s Big 12 Conference schools in the IHSA playoffs. Centennial and Central both lost their chance for advancement on Friday, dropping decisions in their regular-season finales to close 4-5. The other years C-U’s Big 12 teams were shut out of the playoffs were 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1983, 1989 and 1992. The IHSA playoffs began in 1974 with a five-class tournament.
GOOD LUCK, COACH
It’s not unusual for a coach to receive a good luck message prior to a significant game, but the one GCMS’ Mike Allen received little more than an hour before the kickoff to the Falcons’ regular-season finale required him to send a follow-up text. “Is this THE Greg McMahon?” Allen asked. Shortly later, he received an affirmative that the message had been sent by the New Orleans Saints assistant coach.
Unity had the area’s most prolific offense, totaling 351 points in nine games. The area’s other top scoring teams to date are: Villa Grove (321), Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (318), Danville (317), St. Thomas More (308), Salt Fork (305), St. Joseph-Ogden (302) and Monticello (301).
BEST COMPOSITE DEFENSES
St. Thomas More has allowed fewer points than any other area school (53). Other defenses which are among the areas’ best through nine games, based on points allowed, are Tuscola (61), Danville (64), LeRoy (104), Salt Fork (109), St. Joseph-Ogden (110), Tri-County (120), Unity (131) and Mahomet-Seymour (132).
St. Thomas More’s first 9-0 regular season in the history of its eight-year-old program came after a 6-0 triumph over Spring Valley Hall. Hall ended with a 3-6 record, but four of the losses came to teams which are currently 9-0. Besides the Sabers, Hall was also beaten by Stillman Valley, Quincy Notre Dame and Illinois Valley Central. Another loss came to a 7-2 Mendota squad. Hall’s nine opponents won 53 games during the regular season.
Salt Fork’s first-round home playoff game will be hosted by Catlin. ... For the second year in a row, Heart of Illinois schools Blue Ridge and Ridgeview finished 0-9. ... Fisher played its first game Friday without Cody Flynn, a two-way lineman who suffered a broken leg in Week 8. He’ll not only miss the remainder of football, but could be out of wrestling until after Christmas. ... Since the GCMS-Fisher series resumed in 2004 following a three-year hiatus, the Falcons have won all six games while not allowing the Bunnies more than one TD in any of the contests. ... Watseka’s playoff status would not have changed had it played and won its final game against Iroquois West instead of forfeiting because the school was closed for a flu outbreak. Even at five wins, the Warriors’ playoff point total would have only been 33, short of what’s needed to advance. ...
CALE HUISINGA, Monticello. Caught eight passes, five from teammate Ben Palla and three which he intercepted from St. Teresa.
MICHAEL ROMSHEK, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Rushed for 26 yards on his first carry and had eight other double-digit gainers, including TD scampers of 28 and 40 yards, en route to a 225-yard outing vs. Fisher.
GUNNAR EDWARDS, Tuscola. Hauled in 11 passes and turned them into gains of 152 yards while scoring two TDs.
LANCE HUBBARD, Salt Fork. Accumulated 195 yards between rushing and receiving as the Storm clinched a share of the VVC title.
PARKER STEWART, St. Thomas More. Scored the Sabers’ lone TD and batted down a pass to prevent Hall from a possible late-game score.
TEAMS OF THE WEEK
The Blue Devils responded to a win-or-be-eliminated game for the third successive week by continuing to roll up the points. B-H tallied 140 points in its last three games to secure a playoff berth. Reed Collins’ 202-yard rushing effort gives him 576 in the final one-third of the regular season.
After opening the season with back-to-back losses against opponents that currently have a combined 17-1 record, the Bulldogs won seven in a row, and yielded just two TDs in the final three weeks. The first-year starter at quarterback, Quentin McNew, has thrown for 1,349 yards.