The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Chargers Rally Late, Win Class 3-A State Football Title
An 18-yard scoring toss from quarterback Michael Lafferty, to tight end Jacob Schmudlach, capped a late rally by the Illini West Chargers in a stirring come from behind victory over the DuQuoin Indians in last Friday's Illinois Class 3-A state football championship.
The Chargers scored twice in the game's final quarter to post the 21-14 victory that gave them the 3-A title and completed an unbeaten (14-0) 2008 gridiron campaign.
The Chargers struggled with turnovers and penalties during much of the first half of Friday's title game. They would go into the locker room at intermission trailing DuQuoin 7-0, despite a substantial yardage advantage. As it turned out, they had the Indians right where they wanted them.
The Chargers rode a 219-yard night by fullback Stefan Flynn to wear down the Indians, while the IW defense held DuQuoin's high-powered passing attack in check. This winning formula eventually led to the thrilling comeback that would allow the Chargers to secure the 3-A state title victory.
After coming out at the halftime break, Illini West drove the length of the field on their second possession.
They mixed the pounding of Flynn with sweeps by halfbacks Mitchell Beals and Drake Schmudlach to position the ball deep in DuQuoin territory.
A short 2-yard burst by Flynn put the ball in the endzone and a successful PAT kick by Lafferty tied the game at 7-7.
DuQuoin responded with a drive of their own. Mixing the pass and run they drove into Charger territory and eventually faced a 3rd and goal situation at the Illini West one-yard line. A 1-yard pass in the flat got the score and a successful PAT kick gave DuQuoin a 14-7 edge entering the game's final quarter.
Midway through that final period, the Chargers responded with another scoring drive.
This time Flynn would cap the drive with a 33-yard blast up the middle to paydirt. Unfortunately, Lafferty's PAT kick would be blocked and IW now trailed 14-13, with 5:12 left on the clock.
The Charger defense came up big on DuQuoin's next possession and would force the Indians into a punting situation. Illini West took over 65 yards from the endzone with about 2:30 left on the game clock. Another perfect setting for a thrilling Charger comeback.
Mixing pounding Flynn runs with a key pass to Zack Burling the Chargers moved the ball into position.
Faced with 3rd and 10 from the DuQuoin 18-yard line, Lafferty rolled out to his right looking for a receiver.
As the clock ticked down and the Indian defense swarmed around him, Lafferty saw Jacob Schmudlach gain a step on his DuQuoin defender.
Lafferty put the ball over the Indian defender and Schmudlach made a great, over the shoulder, catch in the right front corner of the north endzone.
That catch with 25 ticks left on the clock gave Illini West a 19-14 lead.
Lafferty hooked up with Zach Burling on the 2-point conversion pass to stretch the margin to 21-14 in favor of the Chargers.
A kick-off and defensive stand were all that stood between the Chargers and the title.
The Charger kick-off coverage did their part and downed DuQuoin at about their 40-yard line.
Burling repeated his semi-final performance by picking-off the pass on the first and last play of the Indian's comeback attempt.
Lafferty would take a knee to run out the clock and set-off another wild celebration. This time the Chargers would be celebrating a state championship.
The Charges out gained DuQuoin 422 yards to 226 yards. Illini West total included 375 yards on the ground.
That total indicates the domination of the line of scrimmage by the Charger offensive line. That group, including tight ends, Travis Wilson, Kris Vincent, Jacob Schmudlach, and Zach Burling; tackles, Ross Hutson and Luke Burling; guards, Kyle Hartzell and Kane Sherman; and center, Travis Hobby, have done it all year and the state championship game was no different.
Besides Flynn's 219-yard total, Beals would add 82 yards and 10 carries and Drake Schmudlach netted 54 yards and 6 attempts. Lafferty completed the Charger total with 15 yards on 6 carries.
Lafferty would add 57 yards on 4 completions of 10 pass attempts. Flynn caught one pass for 12 yards, Zach Burling had one catch for 19 yards, and Jacob Schmudlach had a pair of receptions for 26 yards.
The Charger defense was led by Derek VanFleet's 14 tackle effort. Jess Holtsclaw and Ross Huston split a dozen tackles evenly, while Justin Graves and Kyle Hartzell each had 5 stops.
Chris Corzatt had 4 tackles, Dakota Hicks had 4 stops and Carl Hartweg had 3. Also on the tackle chart were Zack Burling, Kris Vincent, Luke Burling, Seth Pilkington, Avery LeJuene, Brett Cook, and Austin Ufkes. VanFleet, Hartzell, Holtsclaw, and Vincent all had tackles for loss in the game.
Captains Luke Burling (left), Derek VanFleet (center) and Ross Hutson smile after receiving their first place medals during the post game ceremony. -photos Courtesy Hancock Journal Pilot
by Doug Endres