GCMS starts title defense on right foot against PBL

GCMS starts title defense on right foot against PBL

PAXTON — Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley knows it has a target on its back.

After the defending Class 2A state chamions won 28-0 over Paxton-Buckley-Loda on Friday night, senior wideout Ryland Holt heard coach Mike Allen say in the postgame huddle that opponents will bring their best each game this year, trying to knock them off their undefeated run, which now stands at 15 games.

"We know we have a target on our backs, so we have to bring our 'A' game on every play, every game," Holt said. "That's the goal right now — just to play our best."

After a scoreless first quarter, Josh Bleich tackled PBL quarterback Gavin Coplea for a loss of six yards, helping the Falcons' offense take over on the Panthers' 34-yard line.

On a third-and-4, GCMS quarterback Nathan Garard found Holt in a one-on-one matchup, which Holt won by making a leaping catch in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown to put the Falcons ahead 7-0 with 9:29 left in the second quarter.

"The coaches have been getting it into my head that I should just transfer my basketball skills to the football field," Holt said, "so I went up and grabbed it at its highest point."

Later in the second quarter, a 35-yard connection from Garard to Holt keyed a four-play, 83-yard drive. Jared Trantina capped off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run to extend GCMS's lead to 14-0 with 2:09 remaining in the first half.

Holt finished the game with 102 receiving yards.

"Nathan (Garard) had a really good arm (Friday)," Holt said. "It was a great effort by the team."

After three plays resulted in a loss of two yards on PBL's ensuing possession, GCMS had another chance to score as its next drive started at the PBL 28-yard line, but a 40-yard field goal attempt by Ben Freehill fell short of the goal post with 54 seconds left in the half.

Coplea's pass on a third-and-15 was intercepted by Austin Spiller on the Panthers' first possession of the second half, resulting in a 9-yard scoring pass from Garard to Bryce Barnes with 9:37 left in the third quarter. On the Falcons' next possession, Lance Livingston scored on an 18-yard scamper with 5:45 remaining in the quarter.

Hayden Workman recorded a team-high 10 tackles for the Falcons' defense in their shutout effort.

The Panthers drove to GCMS' 13-yard line on their next possession, but on a third-and-five, Coplea's pass intended for Mason Ecker was intercepted by Layne Harden in the end zone.

"I thought we came out and played good, tough football," PBL coach Jeff Graham said, "but they have some athletes who went up and made some plays and did a nice job."