MAHOMET — Forward progress was a one-way venture Saturday.
With strong winds blowing in from the west side of Frank Dutton Field, the Class 4A playoff teams headed in that direction — or punting into the wind — were much more challenged than those going east.
On an afternoon when seven of the eight touchdowns were scored with the stiff breeze at the back of the offense, Rock Island Alleman eliminated Mahomet-Seymour 35-20 to advance into the quarterfinals.
“Since we’re primarily a passing team, the wind was a big factor,” M-S senior tight end Grant Farchmin said. “It definitely affected our passing game.”
The Bulldogs (9-2) were unable to generate a first down in the first quarter while Alleman used the wind to score on each of its first two possessions.
Though coach Keith Pogue’s team didn’t reach the end zone when it had the wind in the second quarter, M-S quarterback Joe Kenney passed for 128 yards in the period.
“Coming out of the locker room (at halftime), our guys believed they would win,” Pogue said.
Kenney passed the team downfield twice in the third quarter, hooking up with Cully Day (22 yards) and Daniel Roberson (8 yards) on scoring strikes. Kenney’s third touchdown toss (4 yards to Bradley Gleason) was the only one for the day into the wind and brought the Bulldogs within 21-20 with 8 minutes, 15 seconds left in the second-round game.
“I can’t say enough about how hard their kids played,” Alleman coach Dave DeJaegher said. “Mahomet is a quality football team and definitely had the momentum into the fourth quarter.”
The game offered a stark contrast in styles and philosophies. Alleman completed one pass (a fourth-down attempt that went for a touchdown), and M-S gained all but 20 of its yards through the air.
Kenney passed for at least 130 yards each half, finishing with 284 and the second-best season in school history with a total (2,292) that was within 50 yards of the 2004 record.
“We needed to control the ball and keep it out of their hands,” said DeJaegher, whose team had possession of the ball for 31:51 and rushed for 320 yards on 65 attempts. “We don’t see a lot of pure passing teams like that. The wind was such a factor (Saturday).”
Alleman’s defensive front kept pressure on Kenney, seldom allowing him much time for decisions or to spot receivers.
“What they were doing up front was impressive,” Pogue said.
So, too, was the Bulldogs’ comeback from a 14-point halftime deficit.
“I’m pleased with the effort,” Pogue said. “It has been a privilege to be on this journey with them.”
The coach sees more good times ahead.
“It’s hard right now, but we have a great junior class, and hopefully we’ve broken the expectations (by winning a first-round game for the first time since 2008),” he said. “We absolutely made a run, and it gave the guys a little taste of what it’s like.”
Immediately after M-S pulled within a point, the Bulldogs’ Daniel Roberson appeared to recover an onside kick. However, officials ruled the ball was touched before it traveled 10 yards.
Alleman took over at the M-S 48, and eight plays later, Connor Doak scored on fourth and goal from the 1. The Pioneers’ lead grew to 28-20.
“We had a great season overall,” Day said. “We had a few doubters, but I thought we’d at least do this much.
“At the end, we got a little tired and fell a little short.”
Sophomore Tom Kenney led the Bulldogs with 18 tackles. Farchmin and Tyler Francisco each had 15 stops.
Joe Kenney completed 18 of 49 passes. His favorite receivers were Day (five catches) and Gleason and Tom Kenney (four receptions apiece).
Farchmin said the team’s veteran players helped everyone’s confidence.
“Our senior leadership kept us going,” he said. “In the second half, our defense started clicking and our offense, too.”
Alleman will host Quincy Notre Dame next Saturday. In the final Class 4A state poll, Alleman was rated fifth, QND sixth and M-S ninth.