The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
The Illini West dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football last Saturday afternoon in posting a convincing 36-7 win over the host Central-Southeastern Panthers. This match-up of West Central conference foes was a 3-A second round play-off showdown between two teams that had met just three weeks before. That contest, also at Central High School, saw IW break open a close first half battle with a big 3rd quarter outburst. This game was pretty much over by halftime.
The Chargers received the opening kick-off and a booming Panther kick into the end zone set the visitors starting out at their own 20 yard line. IW was not deterred as they embarked on a 20 play, 80-yard drive that took almost ten minutes off the clock. This drive not only led to a 1-yard touchdown plunge by senior fullback Kyle Huss, it set the tone for the entire game. Although, the conversion run failed, the Chargers led 6-0 and even more importantly took a huge physical and psychological toll on the host Panthers.
After the Illini West defense forced a quick three plays and out punt by C-SE, the Charger offense took over again. This time the Chargers drove 74 yards in 14 total plays, capped by an 8-yard touchdown run by senior halfback Ser Whitaker. A Zane Schmudlach to Colin Beals pass hook-up produced the 2-point conversion and gave the Chargers a 14-0 advantage with 6:12 left in the half. The Charger defense continued to thwart every Panther offensive attempt on the ground and through the air and soon forced another C-SE punt. This time IW needed only 10 plays to travel 54 yards to paydirt.
A 16-yard sweep by senior halfback Drake Schmudlach was the big play on the drive. Another one-yard plunge by Huss produced the third Charger TD of the afternoon. The combination of Zane Schmudlach to Colin Beals again produced a successful conversion pass and a 22-0 halftime lead.
The second half proved to be much like the first as the Chargers continued to gain the edge up front on both sides of the ball. The Charger offensive line of center Jacob Jacoby, guard Jack Carlisle and Mason Beals, tackles Dyan Van Fleet and Brian Lafferty, and tight ends Colin Beals, Dylan Pieper, and Chris Holtsclaw continued to open running room for the talented corps of Charger running backs.
The Charger defense forced another punt on C-SE's first second half drive and the IW offense quickly took advantage. Mixing short bursts up the middle by Huss; with sweeps by Drake Schmudlach and Whitaker, the Chargers began another march down the field.
This time the drive ended much quicker as Schmudlach took a hand-off on a sweep around right end, got good blocking from Carlisle, Mason Beals, Van Fleet, and Pieper and surged into a pile of Panther defenders. Somehow the Charger halfback broke free, cut back left, and raced 44 yards to the endzone. The conversion failed, but the lead was now 28-0 in favor of Illini West.
Illini West would score one more time on their very next possession. This time the field was shorter as the Charger defense stopped a C-SE run attempt on 4th and short inside their own 40-yard line. The Chargers took quick advantage with a 28-yard pass from Zane Schmudlach to Whitaker. Whitaker made a one handed leaping circus catch and landed on his back at the C-SE 2-yard line.
Senior fullback Kyle Huss did the final damage from there, as he plunged in behind good blocking over the leftside by Lafferty, Carlisle, and Jacoby. Huss also did the honors of the 2-point conversion and his successful run extended the Charger lead to 36-0 with a little over three minutes left in the third quarter.
The Chargers unloaded their bench from there and were able to get some meaningful playing time for the reserves. C-SE did block a punt late in the game and ran it in to get their lone touchdown. C-SE ends their season at 8-3 overall, but did win their first-ever play-off game in round one.
The statistics in this game reflected the dominating performance of the Charger offense and defensive units. The Chargers amassed 333 total yards of offense, while giving up only 91 yards to C-SE. The C-SE total included only 24 yards on the ground and 20 rushing attempts.
Leading the Charger defensive effort was the front line of Chris Beaver, Ethan Lillard, Jacob Jacoby, Brian Lafferty, Travis Cox, Dylan Van Fleet, Colin Beals, and Kayden Guymon. That group consistently won the line of scrimmage and forced the Panthers backs to bounce outside looking for yardage.
Linebacker Jack Carlisle topped the IW tackle chart with 9 total tackles. Kevin Bray, Lillard, Van Fleet, and Brandon Gehle had 4 tackles each, while Jack Bastert, Trey Bartlett, and Whitaker each had three. Others on the tackle chart included Drake Schmudlach, Conner Beals, Jacob Jacoby, Kayden Guymon, Chris Beaver, Dallas Neff, Brian Lafferty, and Travis Cox.
The Charger offensive attack was led by Drake Schmudlach with 137 yards on 15 carries. Huss added 84 yards on 24 tough attempts, while Whitaker ran 9 times for 51 yards. Also getting into the ground attack were Shane Wood (15 yards), Zane Schmudlach (4 yards), Sonny Little (3 yards), Kyle Miller, and Connor Beals.
Quarterback Zane Schmudlach completed both of his pass attempts for 39 total yards. Both catches were by Whitaker.
The Chargers return to play-off action this Saturday when they host the 10-1 Pana Panthers at Fuzz Berges Field. That game is set for 1:30 p.m.