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Chargers Down Pretzels 52-0

The Illini West Chargers hosted an IHSA Class3-A football play-off game last Friday night and made quick work of the visiting New Berlin Pretzels, 52-0. The top-seeded Chargers (10-0) remained undefeated as they scored six touchdowns in the game's first 16 minutes against the outmanned visitors. Meanwhile, the IW defense posted its first shut-out of the season as they totally dominated the Pretzel's offensive attack.

The Chargers opened the contest by kicking-off and then forcing a quick Pretzel punt. The IW offense then moved quickly down the field, finally scoring on a 28-yard option run around the left end by senior halfback Ser Whitaker. Whitaker took advantage of good blocking along the left side by tight end Colin Beals, tackle, Brian Lafferty, and guard Jack Carlisle to find the end zone. Drake Schmudlach added the conversion run for a quick 8-0 Charger lead.

After another stop of the New Berlin offense, the Chargers quickly found themselves on the offensive march again. This time the short drive was capped by a 3-yard plunge over the left side by fullback Kyle Huss. Solid blocks by Lafferty, Carlisle, and center Jacob Jacoby split the Pretzel "D" open for Huss's touchdown. Whitaker added a conversion run to put IW up 16-0 with about 5 minutes left in the first period.

The Charger defense forced another Pretzel punt and this time the IW special teams got into the scoring act. Senior safety and return specialist Cody Carson fielded the kick near the east sideline, faked a hand-off to Whitaker and then weaved his way down the west sideline into the end zone. All told, Carson's return covered 69 yards and with the successful conversion run by Drake Schmudlach, the Chargers now led 24-0.

Things quickly went from bad to worse for the shocked Pretzels as they failed to field the ensuing Charger kick-off, giving IW the ball back deep inside New Berlin territory. Charger senior QB Zane Schmudlach then followed up the Pretzel miscue, by hitting classmate Dylan Pieper in the right corner of the north end zone with a 20-yard scoring strike. Whitaker added another conversion run for a 32-0 Illini West advantage.

The Charger offensive barrage continued into the 2nd period when Huss scored his second touchdown, this time another short run over the IW offensive left side from 1-yard out. This time the conversion run failed and the Chargers now led by a score of 38-0.

The ensuing IW kick-off was mishandled again by the Pretzels, with another Charger recovery in New Berlin territory. Charger QB Zane Schumdlach soon made the Pretzel's pay with his second TD toss of the game to a streaking Dylan Pieper. This aerial hook-up was made possible by good protection up front by Jacoby, right guard, Mason Beals, and right tackle Dylan Van Fleet. A third successful conversion run by Whitaker gave the Chargers a 46-0 advantage that the hosts would take into the locker room at halftime.

The Charger reserves took over in the second half and did a good job, not only helping to keep New Berlin out of the end zone to preserve the shutout, but also producing a score of their own. With 3:18 left in the 4th quarter, junior halfback Sonny Little scored on a nice run and cutback from 20 yards out. The conversion run failed to set the final margin of victory at 52-0, in favor of Illini West.

The final game statistics reflected the dominance by the host Chargers throughout this play-off clash. Illini West picked up 310 total yards on only 46 total plays. Meanwhile, the visiting Pretzels could only muster 112 total yards on 42 offensive snaps. The Pretzel total included a negative 10 yards on 19 rushing attempts (including sacks).

The Chargers ran for 259 yards on 36 attempts while Schmudlach completed 2 of 4 pass attempts for 51 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Pieper. IW got 81 yards rushing from Ser Whitaker on only 4 carries. Huss added 49 yards rushing while Drake Schmudlach dashed for 48 yards. Other Charger ground gainers included Kyle Miller (42 yards), Sonny Little (32 yards), Erick Klein (9 yards), and Shane Wood (3 yards).

The Charger defense was spearheaded by Travis Cox, a senior noseguard filling in for the sick Chris Beaver in the middle of the Charger defense. Cox had six total tackles, including 3 for lost yardage and 3 fumble recoveries.

Ethan Lillard had a pair of tackles for loss chasing the Pretzel QB, while Steven Miller added a sack as well. Brandon Gehle recovered a Pretzel fumble, as did junior defensive back John Martin.

The rest of the Charger defensive chart read as follows: Jack Carlisle (6 total tackles), Kevin Bray (5), Connor Beals (5), Jacob Jacoby (3), Brian Lafferty (3), Jack Bastert (3), Cody Carson (3), Ethan Lillard (3), Dylan Van Fleet (2), Hayden Fox (2), Drake Schmudlach (2), Kyle Palmer (2), Brandon Gehle (1), Steven Miller (1), Grant Clark (1), Dakota McKeown (1), Chris Beaver (1), and Sonny Little (1). McKeown also had the only Charger punt for 40 yards.

The Chargers will return to play-off action this weekend when they travel to Camp Point for a second round game with the host Central-Southeastern Panthers. The game is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Saturday, and the 8-2 Panthers are coming off a first round road win over Virden NorthMac, 15-7. This game will feature two teams who met only three weeks ago in week #8, a game which Illini West won 38-7.