PAXTON — The road to win No. 7 for St. Joseph-Ogden was driven by Orion Ciota, who ran for three first-half touchdowns in the Spartans’ victory over Paxton-Buckley-Loda.
“The kids did what they had to do and took care of business,” SJ-O coach Dick Duval said.
PBL finished with five straight losses and no playoff berth after a 4-0 start. The Panthers last made the postseason in 2006.
“It’s not fun to lose,” PBL coach Jeff Graham said. “We came out of the shoot hard, but it didn’t end the way we wanted it, but that’s just the way it was.”
SJ-O ran for 255 yards in the first half including 213 from Ciota, who was the featured back in place of an injured Austin Hedrick. He scored the opening touchdown from 61 yards after finding daylight on the right side with 5:46 left in the first quarter.
Ciota found a hole off-tackle on the left side for a 40-yard score with 9:19 left in the second quarter and ran through the middle for a 22-yard touchdown with 2:30 left in the first half.
After PBL’s Drew Schrodt fumbled on a carry, Spartans quarterback Dalton Walsh avoided a Jordan Anderson sack attempt and scrambled 27 yards for another score with 1:57 left before halftime.
The Panthers scored on a 24-yard field goal from Jonah Wilson with 5:05 left in the second quarter to end a drive that started with an interception by Weston Weber that was returned to the SJ-O 6-yard line.
PBL also had a chance to get some points after Trent Wooten blocked a punt with 3:46 left in the first quarter and the Spartans leading 6-0.
The Panthers, however, turned the ball over on downs at the 18-yard line.
The Panthers finished the first half with 57 yards on 10 carries, including 34 on seven carries from Weber and 24 on two carries from Tyson Snyder. Weber completed 4-of-14 passes for 26 yards with an interception by Jake Stewart in the red zone with 15.4 seconds left in the half.
The Spartans picked up where they left off in the third quarter with a 66-yard run by Ciota on the second play of the third quarter. After another fumble from Schrodt, SJ-O sent Ciota to the sidelines following a four-yard run as well as Walsh before Chase Gadau scored another touchdown run from 14 yards with 9:35 left in the third quarter.
Walsh, meanwhile, finished the contest passing for 16 yards on a 1-for-6 completion ratio. He also ran for 49 yards on four rushes while Connor Janes, who put the icing on the cake with a fourth-quarter touchdown with 10:32 left, had 65 yards on 11 carries.
Ciota led the Spartan offense with 282 yards on 19 carries, as SJ-O finished the game with 414 yards on the ground.
“We thought we could get something going on the ground by spreading their defense out,” Duval said. “Ciota has a lot of speed, obviously. He’s pretty fast when he gets into that open space.”
PBL, meanwhile, finished with 98 yards on the ground, including the team high of 80 from the senior Weber on 11 carries. Drew Schrodt, also a senior, finished with minus-10 yards on 14 carries.
Weber also completed 5-of-15 passes for 36 yards.
“I told them (after the game) that I appreciated the efforts that they put forth,” Graham said. “I couldn’t have been around a better group of kids. The younger kids are going to have to get back after it, but have a great group to model after in our seniors. They’re great leaders, great kids, great citizens and great people.”
Sangamon Valley standings
TEAM CONF. OVERALL
Clifton Central 6 0 9 0
St. Joseph-Ogden 5 1 7 2
Momence 4 2 6 3
St. Thomas More 3 3 6 3
Paxton-Buckley-Loda 2 4 4 5
Iroquois West 1 5 2 7
Watseka 0 6 1 8