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The Illini West Chargers clinched at least a share of the West Central conference football championship for 2010 with a convincing 34-7 road win over the host Central-Southeastern Panthers last Friday night. The victory improves the Chargers WCC record to 7-0, while they also remained perfect on the season as a whole at 8-0.
This game was a real, "Battle of Wills" throughout the first half as both teams pounded away at the resolve of the other. The Chargers opened up the game with a 13-play drive right at the heart of the Panther defense, only to be eventually forced to punt.
The Panthers also tried to pound away at the middle of the Illini West defense, but the Charger front proved up to the task throughout the bulk of this contest. Repeatedly, they forced the Panthers to punt the ball away after unsuccessful drives. Fortunately for C-SE their punter did an outstanding job pinning the Chargers deep in their own end to begin each first half possession.
The Chargers finally found their way into the end zone midway through the 2nd quarter when senior halfback Ser Whitaker took a 12-yard option pitch from QB Zane Schmudlach and sprinted around left end for the game's first score.
That score was set up by two nice option keeps by QB Zane Schmudlach to keep the drive alive.
A 23-yard run by halfback Drake Schmudlach was also pivotal in getting IW out from their own territory and into the Panther's half of the gridiron. C-SE did turn away the Charger conversion run to set the score at 6-0 in favor of IW.
Both teams took shots at adding to that score prior to halftime, but each was turned away by the other's defense.
An interception by senior defensive back Kevin Bray helped to keep the Panthers off the scoreboard on their final possession of the first half.
Both teams left the field at the intermission feeling hopeful as IW still led by just the single score.
A quick 3rd quarter surge by the Charger offense, coupled with continued strong play by the IW defense changed the complexion of this game in the first 7 minutes of the second half. What had been a tight, defensive struggle would quickly become a Charger runaway.
Illini West took the opening Panther kick-off the second half and used a 46-yard run by Whitaker and a 15-yard blast by senior fullback Kyle Huss to advance deep into C-SE territory.
The Panther defense then stiffened a bit, but QB Zane Schmudlach found brother Drake on a 4th down pass for a big 17-yard score. Drake Schmudlach added the conversion run successfully this time for a 14-0 IW advantage.
The Charger defense then stepped up on C-SE's next possession and forced a Panther fumble.
Junior defensive back Jack Bastert would recover for the Chargers, thus setting the stage for another Charger offensive quick strike.
On the very first play of the Chargers possession, the combination of Zane Schmudlach to brother Drake hooked up again, this time for a 43-yard play-action pass down the left sideline for the score. The Panther defense turned away the conversion attempt but IW now led by the score of 20-0.
A fired-up Charger defense would build upon the sudden Illini West momentum by forcing the stunned Panthers to turn the ball back over to the visiting Chargers.
The Charger offense then took advantage by going on another scoring drive.
This drive would feature fullback Kyle Huss and would continue to pound away at the Panther defensive resolve.
Huss would eventually find his way into the south end zone on a 4-yard run that would leave a disheartened group of C-SE tacklers grasping for both air and answers.
Whitaker would sprint around left end for the extra points and a 28-0 Charger advantage with 5:02 left on the 3rd quarter clock.
The Illini West defense continued to answer every Panther offensive challenge and again forced C-SE to turn the ball over on downs.
A great punt by C-SE's outstanding kicker would pin the Illini West offense at their own 1-yard line.
With the Charger offense having to come out of their own end zone, the Panther defense hopes to come up with a big play that might turn momentum over to their side. It was not to be on this night.
After a couple of runs to gain some room to operate Charger QB Zane Schmudlach dialed up a long pass connection of 28-yards to senior tight end Colin Beals to move IW safely out to midfield.
From that point, it was pretty much all Kyle Huss, as the IW offense repeatedly pounded the senior fullback into the middle of the C-SE defense.
He would eventually find his way into the Panther end zone for his second score of the night and a 34-0 Charger advantage with 9:40 left in the final period.
The Panthers would finally find their way across the goal line at the 4:59 mark of the 4th quarter, but it was certainly too little, too late for C-SE on this night.
The game would end with the IW reserves running out the clock on a 34-7 victory for the undefeated Chargers.
The final statistics from this contest reflected the final score as the IW offense netted 496 total yards, while the Charger defense held the usually explosive Panthers to only 139 yards.
The Chargers gained 408 yards on the ground on 56 carries as they dominated time of possession while wearing down the Panther defense.
The ground dominance was indicative of the outstanding job done by the Illini West offensive line to control the line of scrimmage.
Center Jacob Jacoby, guards Jack Carlisle and Mason Beals, tackles Dylan Van Fleet and Brian Lafferty, and tight ends Colin Beals, Dylan Pieper, Brandon Gehle, and Chris Holtsclaw repeatedly pushed the C-SE defense back, despite a vast array of Panther blitzes and stunts.
QB Zane Schmudlach made the most of his limited passing opportunities by connecting on all 3 of his attempts for 88 yards.
His brother, Drake, had two catches for 60 yards, while Colin Beal had one reception for 28 yards.
The Charger rushing attack was paced by Kyle Huss, who rushed 27 times for 178 yards.
Ser Whitaker also topped the century mark with 10 carries for 110 yards, while Drake Schmudlach added 8 carries for 58 yards.
Zane Schmudlach carried 4 times for 29 yards, Shane Wood had 3 rushes for 22, Erick Klein had 2 attempts for 9, Kyle Miller had 1 rush for 6 yards and Sonny Little had a single carry for one yard.
The Charger defense did a great job keeping the conference's highest scoring team out of the end zone until the last few moments of this crucial contest.
IW's defense seemed to have an answer for every Panther offensive challenge on this night.
Topping the Charger tackle chart for this game was linebacker Jack Carlisle with 9 total tackles, Ser Whitaker and Brandon Gehle were each involved in 7 stops, while Chris Beaver, Jacob Jacoby, and Dylan Van Fleet were each credited with 6 tackles.
Also on the tackle chart were Ethan Lillard (4 tackles), Cory Carson (3), Brian Lafferty (3), Trey Ourth (2), Drake Schmudlach (2), Jack Bastert (2), Kevin Bray (2), Connor Beals (1), and John Martin (1).
The Chargers return to action this Friday when they host the Sherrard Tigers (4-4). The Tigers need a win to qualify for the play-offs, so the Chargers are expecting a battle. The game will kick-off at Fuzz Berges Field at 7 p.m.
Illlini West tackle Kevin Bray nabbed a Central/Southeastern ball carrier Gerrett Kestner as IW #90-Coulton Wascher moved in to assist. The IW Chargers tamed the C/SE Panthers with a score of 34-7 last Friday night and improved the Chargers WCC record to 7-0 (8-0 over all).