GIBSON CITY — Once a quarter made all of the difference.
Events that transpired one time in each of the first three quarters Friday night helped determine the outcome in an IHSA Class 1A state football first-round game between Chicago Leo and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley.
Leo scored one touchdown per quarter.
GCMS managed one first down per period.
For the Falcons, it was too much of one thing and too little of the other.
Leo posted a 36-0 triumph in a game played mostly in a steady drizzle.
It wasn’t the ending GCMS envisioned for its season, but it’s one more game than the school played in 2012.
“There’s no other feeling like it,” senior Lane Dueringer said, “especially when everyone is counting you out. There’s not as much pressure, and you can have fun.”
The numbers on the scoreboard weren’t fun, but the rest of the experience qualified.
“Yeah,” Dueringer said. “I had fun.”
GCMS (7-3) was matched against an opponent that was more than its equal in team speed.
“The last few weeks,” GCMS coach Mike Allen said, “we’ve been able to get to the outside. They took that away from us. Our kids weren’t intimidated, but their speed was to their advantage.”
The Lions scored on their first possession, but GCMS put itself in position to create a tie. A 37-yard pass from Ross Royal to Austin Hornstein moved the Falcons to the Leo 14-yard line. Tristan Smith, who led GCMS in rushing (60 yards), advanced the ball to the 10.
Royal’s second-down pass was picked off and returned 90 yards for a TD by Leo’s Riley McClendon-Gray.
“Throughout the season, we’ve been a big-play team,” Allen said. “(Friday night), we had one, but we needed more than that. It wasn’t our night.”
Royal later intercepted a Leo pass in the end zone, one of two the Falcons picked off. Tyler Hinshaw had the other.
Allen credited the team’s 16 seniors with getting the program headed back in the right direction after a year’s hiatus from the playoffs.
“The senior leadership was tremendous,” Allen said. “The biggest thing is the younger kids saw how our seniors led, their expectations, how they treated each other.
“These kids were an incredibly classy group of young men. From the next week after last season was over, they were in the weightroom. They did everything we asked of them.”
GCMS totaled 168 yards, 84 in each half. Royal completed 7 of 12 passes for 64 yards. Hinshaw and Austin Hornstein each had two receptions.
Hinshaw was second to Smith in rushing with 47 yards.
Dueringer said Leo has the traits that could lead to more success in the Class 1A playoffs.
“They are big, strong and fast,” he said.
GCMS moved deep into Leo territory on its second possession of the third quarter, sparked by a 46-yard run by Smith. However, a fumble at the Lions’ 27 marked the Falcons’ final turnover. Leo (8-2) used more than six minutes on a 12-play scoring drive that put the visitors in command, 21-0, with 3 minutes, 22 seconds left in the third quarter.
Dueringer said he will remember the season fondly.
“This game will stay in my head for a while,” he said, “but this was the greatest group of guys to come through it with.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group. A lot of people didn’t think we’d make it, and that fueled us.”
Ottawa Marquette 33,
Milford/Cissna Park 12
Unbeaten Ottawa Marquette expanded a 7-6 first-quarter lead to 19-6 by halftime and made Milford/Cissna Park its 10th victim. MCP finished 5-5.
Ottawa Marquette 33, Milford/Cissna Park 12
Chicago Leo 36, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 0
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