FINAL: Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 38, Maroa-Forsyth 32
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley football has made history.
The Falcons rallied in the second half to pull off a 38-32 victory against Maroa-Forsyth in the Class 2A state championship game on Friday afternoon at Huskie Stadium, winning the program's first-ever state championship.
GCMS (14-0) capped off its final drive of the season in epic fashion against the Trojans (12-2).
Trailing 32-30, the Falcons took control of the ball with a little more than six minutes left in the fourth quarter and proceeded to drive the length of the field, with Bryce Barnes making an acrobatic 23-yard touchdown catch off a pass from quarterback Nathan Garard with 1 minute, 8 seconds left.
From there, the Falcons' defense held on, stopping Maroa-Forsyth in its own territory and sealing a memorable afternoon for the Falcons and their faithful who made the trek to DeKalb.
— Colin Likas (@clikasNG) November 24, 2017
Mitch McNutt and Jared Trantina powered the GCMS offense for most of the game, which saw GCMS trail 26-15 midway through the third quarter.
McNutt rushed 32 times for 139 yards and three touchdowns, while Trantina was a force as well with 132 rushing yards on 14 carries.
Garard finished 3 of 8 for 73 passing yards, but none was bigger than his final pass of the season to Barnes in the end zone.
— Colin Likas (@clikasNG) November 24, 2017
3:50 p.m. — Maroa-Forsyth 32, GCMS 30, 6:26 remaining in fourth
Aaron Inda took an end-around 52 yards for a touchdown to put the Trojans back on top. He just broke for the sideline closest to the press box and could never be stopped. The PAT was blocked, but the Trojans are less than seven minutes from a title now.
3:42 p.m. — GCMS 30, Maroa-Forsyth 26, 9:13 remaining in fourth
Brooks Schmitt capped a lengthy (distance-wise) drive for GCMS with an 11-yard touchdown run. The Falcons have four scores on the ground and are roughly nine minutes from their first state title.
3:30 p.m. — Maroa-Forsyth 26, GCMS 23, 12:00 remaining in fourth
Both defenses have suddenly become quite stout, dropping guys like Mitch McNutt and Deondre Gregory for multiple losses on the last few drives. GCMS was forced to put with 7 seconds left in the third quarter, giving the Trojans good field position (starting from the GCMS 49) to open this final period.
3:13 p.m. — Maroa-Forsyth 26, GCMS 23, 6:25 remaining in third
Mitch McNutt is having himself a game on offense. He has drawn four late hits from Maroa, and now has his third touchdown run of the game, this one from 1 yard out. Nathan Garard bulled over a Trojan defender for two more points, and the Falcons are within three.
3:00 p.m. — Maroa-Forsyth 26, GCMS 15, 9:07 remaining in third
GCMS shot itself in the foot a few times on its first drive of the half, and then early on Maroa's ensuing drive. The Falcons committed a hold and two personal fouls in that time to set up the Trojans at the Falcon 36. Deondre Gregory then got some great blocking on a 36-yard touchdown run to increase the Trojans' lead.
2:35 p.m. — Maroa-Forsyth 19, GCMS 15, HALFTIME
Maroa's Aaron Inda took an end-around 1 yard for a touchdown, and the Trojans have gone ahead once more. However, Maroa committed a facemask on Mitch McNutt on the kickoff return — McNutt's helmet came flying off — so the Trojans will be penalized 15 yards after they receive the second-half kickoff.
GCMS is behind by 4 entering halftime, which you'd think wouldn't be much to overcome given how this game has played out.
2:20 p.m. — GCMS 15, Maroa-Forsyth 12, 4:48 remaining in second
GCMS traveled all the way to Maroa's 13 before a holding penalty created some problems. It eventually led to a fourth and forever, which it appeared Nathan Garard converted to Ryland Holt in the end zone. But Holt could not maintain possession as he hit the ground, giving the ball back to the Trojans.
2:08 p.m. — GCMS 15, Maroa-Forsyth 12, 9:24 remaining in second
This one is shaping up to be a shootout. Mitch McNutt had a ton of carries on that possession (no surprise) and he finished the drive by showing amazing patience. He waited for a hole to open and rushed 6 yards for a score. Nathan Garard hit Ryland Holt for a 2-point conversion pass, and the Falcons are back ahead early in the second.
2:00 p.m. — Maroa-Forsyth 12, GCMS 7, 12:00 remaining in second
Maroa slowly and methodically drove most of the field and found the end zone when Ian Benner found Max Davenport for a 15-yard touchdown pass. It looked like Davenport might have lost the ball briefly after getting tackled, but the call stood.
The Trojans failed a two-point pitch attempt to hold a five-point lead. Jared Trantina then started GCMS' next drive with a 29-yard run. So the Falcons are in Maroa territory to start the second quarter.
1:45 p.m. — GCMS 7, Maroa-Forsyth 6, 5:00 remaining in the first
Maroa struck first on a long screen pass, but Mitch McNutt took the ball a few yards for a touchdown in response, putting the Falcons ahead 7-6. Maroa is already driving again, into Falcon territory late in the first quarter.
FINAL: Lena-Winslow 21, Tuscola 20
A shot at winning the third state championship in Tuscola football history will have to wait.
Despite a valiant second-half comeback effort by the Warriors, Tuscola suffered a 21-20 loss to Lena-Winslow on Friday afternoon in the Class 1A state title game at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.
Tuscola trailed 21-7 at halftime before Luke Sluder found Dalton Hoel for a 4-yard touchdown pass to trim the Warriors' deficit to 21-14 in the third quarter. Sluder then connected with Cale Sementi on a 5-yard touchdown pass later in the third quarter, but the Warriors couldn't convert the extra point, giving Lena-Winslow a 21-20 lead going into the fourth quarter.
But the Warriors (13-1) couldn't overcome the Panthers (14-0) in the fourth quarter, with Tuscola taking the ball on the final drive down to the Lena-Winslow 29 before turing the ball over on downs with 10 seconds left.
Sluder completed 12 of 32 passes for 116 yards, with Hoel his favorite target as the senior wideout hauled in eight receptions for 75 yards in his final game with Tuscola.
Another senior, Andrew Erickson, rushed for a team-high 73 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown to lead Tuscola's run game.
Lena-Winslow's Rahveon Valentine was the difference offensively, rushing for a game-high 140 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. L-W receiver Isaiah Bruce caught both of the Panthers' passes for 88 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown reception.
12:15 p.m. — Lena-Winslow 21, Tuscola 20, 8:31 remaining in the fourth
Tuscola is starting a drive from its own 29 after Dalton Hoel returned a punt 21 yards for the Warriors. It's not necessarily a need-to-score moment, but it's pretty close to that.
Isaiah Bruce also went down for Lena on the last drive after diving for a third-down pass. He got up very slowly and didn't look like he was going well, particularly in the lower-body area.
12:10 p.m. — Lena-Winslow 21, Tuscola 20, 10:00 remaining in the fourth
We've entered the final period of regulation, and Lena is trying to run down the clock a bit. Rahveon Valentine is back in after suffering an injury in the third quarter, but the Warriors have the Panthers sitting at their own 30.
12:03 p.m. — Lena-Winslow 21, Tuscola 20, 0:42 remaining in the third
Rahveon Valentine makes his first mistake today, fumbling at his own 34. Tuscola converted a pair of fourth downs on the ensuing drive, including Luke Sluder hitting Cale Sementi on a 5-yard touchdown toss. The Warriors botched the PAT snap, so they still trail by a point.
11:52 a.m. — Lena-Winslow 21, Tuscola 14, 4:57 remaining in the third
Andrew Erickson picked up a fourth-down conversion on the ground, then pounded out a 17-yard rush to get Tuscola inside the Lena 5. One play later, Luke Sluder hit Dalton Hoel for a touchdown pass. It was an impressive play by Hoel, who was covered well and was falling out of bounds as he caught it.
Cade Kresin boots the kickoff into the end zone, so the Panthers will start at their own 20 with less than 5 to play in this quarter.
11:45 a.m. — Lena-Winslow 21, Tuscola 7, 7:47 remaining in the third
Lena's first drive of the second half saw one first down and was followed by a 7-yard punt. Tuscola is going to have amazing field position, starting at the Panther 34. Have to cash in here if you're the Warriors.
11:21 a.m. — Lena-Winslow 21, Tuscola 7, HALFTIME
That was a second quarter Tuscola would like to forget. Rahveon Valentin and Sean Ormiston ravaged the Warrior defense on the run, and Tuscola's offensive line could hardly protect Luke Sluder.
Lena made two big mistakes with a muffed punt and a fumble, but Tuscola has been far from clean. It'll need to be near-perfect in the second half while cleaning up in the aforementioned areas.
11:18 a.m. — Lena-Winslow 21, Tuscola 7, 0:32 remaining in the second
Tough drive with less than 1:30 to play before halftime for Tuscola. Luke Sluder had Haden Cothron perfectly thrown on a big play, as Cothron beat a falling Lena defender. But Cothron dropped the pass. Then, Sluder was sacked for the third time today.
Tuscola's offensive line has been dominated this game. The Warriors are punting for the fourth time, with 32 seconds left in the first half.
11:00 a.m. — Lena-Winslow 21, Tuscola 7, 7:09 remaining in the second
The rhythm that was missing in the first quarter is alive and well now for Lena-Winslow. After forcing a turnover on downs inside its own 30, Lena saw Sean Ormiston break off a 50-yard run before Rahveon Valentine finished the two-play drive with a 22-yard touchdown run, his second of the game.
10:51 a.m. — Lena-Winslow 14, Tuscola 7, 10:49 remaining in the second
Rahveon Valentine just showed what a game-changer he is. Coming in with more than 2,000 rushing yards on the season, the senior broke a few tackles and snapped off a 76-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers up with a little more than a minute gone in the second quarter.
Lena now has two massive gains for touchdowns. Beyond that, Tuscola's defense has actually done a great job stopping the opponent.
10:45 a.m. — Tuscola 7, Lena-Winslow 7, end of first quarter
Tuscola is nearing midfield after Andrew Erickson converted a third-down run for 8 yards. It was a power run all the way, as Erickson looked likely to be tackled at the line of scrimmage.
Both teams are going to need to be way cleaner if they hope to win this game. No flow in that first quarter due to all the turnovers and short drives.
10:37 a.m. — Tuscola 7, Lena-Winslow 7, 1:00 remaining in the first
After a Panthers holding penalty created a second-and-20 situation, Ty Chrisman hit Isaiah Bruce on a short screen pass. Bruce did the rest, getting a few timely blocks upfield and crossing the field for a 72-yard touchdown.
This has been a sloppy game thus far, but that was the best offensive play so far on either side.
10:30 a.m. — Tuscola 7, Lena-Winslow 0, 2:30 remaining in the first
Lena came into this game with four turnovers on the entire season. They already have two today, as they now botch a handoff. It was recovered by Cale Sementi at midfield, but the Warriors aren't going anywhere. Sluder was sacked once and nearly threw a pick on third down.
Then, the fourth-down snap sailed over Cade Kresin's head. He was able to recover and get off a nice kick, to the Lena 38.
10:25 a.m. — Tuscola 7, Lena-Winslow 0, 4:16 remaining in the first
On a third-down play, Luke Sluder was intercepted on a deflection created by throwing into double coverage. But the Panthers were flagged for pass interference to put Tuscola well inside the 20. Andrew Erickson, on another third-down play, then rushed five yards into the end zone for the game's first score.
The Warriors have taken a 7-0 lead in a mistake-filled game thus far.
10:20 a.m. — 6:30 remaining in the first quarter, no score
It's frantic action so far. Tuscola was on a nice little drive to start the game, but was forced to punt. However, Lena-Winslow muffed that kick, and Dalton Hoel recovered on the Lena 19.
But then, Luke Sluder fumbled on a run inside the Panther 10. BUT THEN, the Warriors forced a three-and-out and Lena had to punt out of its own end zone. Hoel with a nice return on that to set up Tuscola just outside its 30.
9:55 a.m. — 5 minutes before Class 1A kickoff
DeKALB — Shortly after the turn of the most-recent century, Mike Allen was just getting started as Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley’s football coach.
At the same time, Andy Romine was serving as an assistant for then-Fisher football coach Matt Lang.
The Falcons and Bunnies played each other during the regular season, so it’s no surprise Allen and Romine — who coached their respective teams in separate state championship games Friday — would cross paths. But how they first did is a unique story.
Romine, who lived right near GCMS’ Falcon Field when working for Fisher, would silently observe Allen’s practices from just beyond the fence.
"I was a football junkie, and I was 22 and I wanted to be a football coach," Romine said. "This was probably his third or fourth year, they hadn’t won a ton, but that was the point they started to turn the corner."
So, was Allen a fan of an opposing assistant viewing his workouts? Well, he never had a chance to voice his opinion, as he knew nothing of Romine’s practice appearances until this week.
"Really? Tell him that’s illegal, he can’t be doing that stuff," Allen said with a laugh. "No, no. He’s a good guy. He’s a tremendous coach, and the success he’s had, he’s a student of the game."
Romine said he probably should’ve introduced himself to Allen at some point, but admitted he was concerned Allen wouldn’t want him around if he knew just who was watching practices from a distance.
"I wasn’t trying to steal stuff," Romine said. "I was trying to learn something, quite honestly. And I did."
Romine said the Falcons’ practice tempo appealed to him, as did a "belief system" Romine said he could sense was in place.
"I was just like, I’m 22, I don’t really know anything about anything," Romine said. "But as a casual observer, it just felt like it was done the right way."
That last point is a fair assessment, especially considering Allen’s Falcons were playing for the Class 2A state crown Friday against Maroa-Forsyth.
And it would appear Romine did garner some ideas from watching those practices, as he led the Warriors to Friday’s 1A final against Lena-Winslow in his third season as Tuscola’s coach.
"You take it as a compliment, as a young coach coming to look," Allen said. "That’s what coaches do: They pick up anything they can when they can."
9:30 a.m. — 30 minutes before Class 1A kickoff
Welcome to Huskie Stadium in DeKalb for the first of today's four state football finals. We've got Tuscola facing Lena-Winslow in a battle of undefeated squads.
The Warriors (13-0) were last here in 2011, falling short. The Panthers (13-0) made last year's final, falling to Forreston — which Lena-Winslow defeated in the semifinals this season.
Both teams are warming up on the turf field right now. It'll be interesting to see how Tuscola — and, later, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley — adjust to the turf field. It's not something either squad is terribly familiar with. Not sure about Lena-Winslow, but Maroa-Forsyth coach Josh Jostes spoke earlier this week about his Trojans being used to playing on turf.
It's a bright, sunny, cloudless day, though a cool 41 degrees. That won't last long, as it's slated to get up to 57 degrees by the 2A kickoff, with increased wind.
There are by far more Panther fans in the stadium right now, but there were plenty of Warrior fans outside at their usual pregame cookout. No doubt it'll even up the rooting sections once that concludes.
To be fair, though, Lena-Winslow is just about an hour 20 minutes from DeKalb. Tuscola is close to a three-hour trip. So it'd be no surprise if the Panthers have more fans than the Warriors — at least on campus today.
Stay tuned today, as this LIVE! report will run through today's 1A game, as well as the 2A final between GCMS (13-0) and Maroa-Forsyth (12-1).