The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
The 2011 football season came to an end for the Illlini West Chargers as they were beaten in a first round 2-A playoff game 42-28 by the Deer Creek Mackinaw Chiefs.
The 8th seeded Chargers saw their record finish at 5-5 overall, while the top-seeded Chiefs improved to 10-0.
The game played last Friday evening at Mackinaw started out as a fast-paced, high-scoring affair. The Chargers took the opening kick-off and used fullback Kayden Guymon to cover 55 of the drive's 76 yards.
A 37 yard burst by the senior set up a 19 yard run into the end zone.
Senior halfback Jack Bastert added a successful conversion run to give IW an early 8-0 advantage.
The Chiefs answered right back with a scoring drive of their own to knot the score at 8-8. A Charger turnover then paved the way for Dee-Mack to take the lead late in the first period with another scoring drive, 16-8.
The Chargers responded to the challenge with another scoring drive of their own early in the second quarter. A 69 yard run by Bastert, set the stage for a 19 yard touchdown run off the left side by senior quarterback Cole Carson.
The IW conversion run failed, leaving the Chargers on the short end of a 16-14 score.
Dee-Mack was again up to the challenge as they responded with a quick scoring drive to expand their lead to 22-14.
The real back-breaker came following the Chief kick-off when Illini West fumbled early in their next possession deep in Dee-Mack territory. A Chief defender scooped up the ball and ran it in from 17 yards out to give the hosts a 28-14 edge.
The Chargers got a big lift however on the ensuing kick-off as senior return man Sonny Little took the ball down the south sideline 88 yards into the west end zone.
A successful conversion run by Carson cut the Dee-Mack lead to 28-22 going into the halftime break.
Unfortunately, Dee-Mack had the ball first after the break and the Illini West defense still did not have a good answer for what the Chiefs were trying to do offensively.
It only took about 90 seconds for the hosts to travel 75 yards and regain the game's momentum and push their lead to 36-22.
The teams then took a short break from the scoring onslaught as the rest of the 3rd period remained scoreless. Finally, the Chargers would take advantage of a Chief turnover on an interception by IW Junior linebacker Ben Gittings early in the 4th period.
Set up just across midfield, the Charger offense marched the rest of the way behind the running of Carson and halfback Connor Beals.
Beals went the final 25 yards into the end zone to pull the Chargers back to within a single touchdown with about 9 minutes left to play. Unfortunately that is as close as the Chargers would get on this night as Dee-Mack pulled away at the end.
The Chargers were out gained 432 yards to 350 on this night where offense took center stage. The IW total included 266 yards rushing, a total that was hindered by 6 sacks of Carson that took away over 50 yards of rushing.
Carson did hit on 5 of 12 pass attempts for 84 yards.
The Charger offense was further hindered by 3 key turnovers, including an interception deep in their own territory and the fumble that Dee-Mack returned for a touchdown.
Bastert closed out his Charger football career with 112 yards running and 60 yards receiving on this night. He also punted 3 times for a 34 yard average.
Guymon also played his last game in a charger football uniform by rushing for 75 yards on 11 carries. His total put him over the 1000 yard mark for the season, despite battling a knee injury throughout much of the season.
Beals and Carson, also seniors in their final IW games, added 49 and 27 yards rushing.
Carson's total was hindered by the late sacks, as he actually produced 75 yards rushing without the sacks added in.
In addition to Bastert's 3 receptions for 60 yards, senior tight end Spencer Kirkenslager caught 2 passes for 24 yards in his final game in a charger football uniform.
Junior linebacker Ben Gittings topped the Illini West defensive chart with 12 total tackles and an interception. Senior defensive back John Martin also had an interception, while combining on 8 tackles.
The tackle chart also included a 10 stop performance by junior linebacker Clay Huston, plus 6 tackles each by Sonny Little and Jack Bastert. Alex Appel and Hayden Fox each finished with 6 tackles.
Others on thetackle chart included Dallas Neff (4), Braxton Squier (4). Brett Appel (3). Kale Carlisle (3), Connor Beals (3). Spencer Kirkenslager (3), Colton Wascher (1). Kyle Miller (1), Cole Lee (1), Shane Wood (1), and Alex Ourth (1:0 and Alec McCarty (1).
Although the loss brings the season to an early and unhappy ending, this team did come back from a difficult 1-3 start to make the playoffs.
For that resolve, and the resilience it takes to overcome such a start, this team should be proud of what it accomplished.