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The Illini West Chargers got defensive this past Saturday to post a big quarterfinals victory over the visiting Aledo-Westmer Green Dragons, 22-6.
The Chargers now advance to the Illinois Class 3-A semifinals to face the Oregon Hawks. Both teams will come in at 12-0 and kick-off is slated for 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon at Carthage's Fuzz Bergess Field.
The quarterfinals match-up saw a rematch between the Chargers and the Green Dragons.
Aledo-Westmer came in at 10-1, with its lone loss coming in week four to the Chargers 36-22.
The Dragons had rattled-off 7 consecutive decisive wins since then, while averaging well over 40 points and 400 yards of offense during that span.
The Illini West defense proved up to the challenge this Saturday. They held the Green Dragons to 165 total yards, including only 46 yards (on 25 attempts) on the ground.
Aledo-Westmer's star tailback, Matt Dawson, came in with 1500 yards rushing and 23 consecutive 100 yard games. He left with 21 yards on 10 carries and several bumps and bruises.
The Chargers took the opening kick-off and marched 86 yards on 18 plays to score the games first points. The drive included two fourth down conversions, including a 5-yard fake punt run by Illini West's Drake Schmudlach.
Charger quarterback Michael Lafferty had 5 runs for 45 yards on the drive. Junior fullback Stefan Flynn capped the drive with a 7 yard run to the endzone. Lafferty added a 2-point conversion pass to Kris Vincent to give the Chargers an early 8-0 lead.
That score would remain that way for the rest of the half as neither team could mount a scoring drive. The going was especially tough for Aledo-Westmer as they could only muster about 40 first half yards.
The Chargers kicked-off to open the second half and pinned Aledo-Westmer deep. The Green Dragons were forced to punt into the wind and Illini West was set up with good field position. The Chargers drove 45 yards down to the 1-yard line, but were turned away by the Green Dragons on 4th down.
Aledo-Westmer found its good fortune short-lived however when they could not drive away from their endzone. Forced to punt, the Dragon punt went only to the 12-yard line against the stiff wind. The Chargers took advantage as Flynn scored from 11-yards out a couple of plays later. Lafferty added the successful PAT kick for a 15-0 Illini West edge.
The Chargers would then use their stout defense and timely use of the clock to force another Green Dragon punt into the wind. This punt would only travel 16 yards and set the Chargers up for another short scoring drive. Flynn again did the honors with an 11-yard touchdown run. Lafferty's PAT kick split the uprights again for a 22-0 lead.
The Chargers defense continued to thwart all Green Dragon efforts to score until a fairly meaningless drive, late, gave Aledo-Westmer a token score at the 11 second mark of the game. The conversion failed, to set the final margin at 22-6.
Leading the effort for the Charger defense was the Illini West front five. This group not only shut down the Dragon ground game, but also provided constant harassment and pressure on the Aledo quarterback in the passing game.
The front five includes Kris Vincent and Karl Hartweg at the ends, Kyle Hartzell and Justin Graves at the tackles, and noseguard Ross Hutson.
The Charger tackle chart was topped by Hartzell's 7 total stops and 6 each by Hartweg and linebacker Derek VanFleet. Hutson and cornerback Brett Cook each had 5 tackle involvements.
Others on the tackle chart included Graves and linebacker, Jacob Schmudlach with 4 each, while Zach Burling (safety), Jesse Holtsclaw (rover), and Dakota Hicks (linebacker), had 2 each. Solo stops were provided by Tim Yex, Austin Ufkes, Seth Pilkington, Gage Johnson, Jack Carlisle, Kris Vincent, and Chris Corzatt.
Kicker Gage Johnson averaged 49 yards on his 5 kick-offs to help Illini West win the field position battle. Lafferty had one punt for 53 yards that pinned the Dragons deep in their end during the 2nd period.
The Charger offense amassed 310 yards, all on the ground, on 61 carries. Flynn led the way with 178 yards on 37 carries. His total included 119 yards on 23 second half carries.
Lafferty added 113 yards on 13 carries to complement Flynn's power running. The going was a bit tougher for the Charger halfbacks as Drake Schmudlach and Mitch Beals split 19 yards on 11 carries.
The Chargers will get the opportunity to now host a 4th consecutive play-off game.
Oregon is a member of the Big Northern Conferences' West Division. They feature a power running attack and a hard nosed, stingy defense.
The winner will advance to the 3-A state championship on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Winning ways of Chargers' defense: Hobby, Sherman, Ross refuse to let the Dragons pass.
Junior fullback Stefan Flynn moves around #47 after a Jacob Schmudlach tackle leaves the Green Dragons a dragin' and eventually allows a 7 yard run to the end zone by Flynn.
Charger Mitch Beals gains yardage for Illini West aided by a tough Charger defense.