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The Illini West Charger football squad did their part to make the 2011 homecoming a successful one by posting an exciting 50-35 win over the visiting Pittsfield Saukees last Friday night. A big 22-point second quarter let the Chargers overcome an early lead by the Saukee and raised Illini West's record to 2-3 on the season.
The Charger offense was virtually unstoppable for the Pittsfield defense as they amassed nearly 500 yards (492) and were not forced to punt in the game. Only 3 fumbles by the Chargers themselves stopped the IW offense from being even more productive.
The Chargers started the scoring on the night by taking the opening kick-off and marching 70 yards to pay dirt. Senior fullback Kayden Guymon finally dented the end zone with a 7-yard run up the middle behind good blocks from senior guard Kirby Fecht, junior guard Kale Carlisle and center Beau Passmore. The conversion pass failed, leaving IW up 6-0 early.
Pittsfield answered with a scoring drive of their own and knotted the score at 6-all with about 3 minutes left in the first quarter. The Chargers responded to that challenge with another scoring drive of their own. The big play on the drive was a 66-yard burst by Guymon deep into Saukee territory. Senior halfback Connor Beals did the honors this time with a 15-yard run into the right corner of the end zone. The conversion run came up short and IW now led 12-6.
That IW advantage was short-lived as Pittsfield responded with a long touchdown pass and a successful kick to take a 13-12 edge over the Chargers early in the second quarter.
Unfazed, the Chargers came right back with another scoring drive of their own. This time they went 65 yards, with the big play being a 22-yard run by senior halfback Jack Bastert. Bastert would eventually cap the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run over the offensive left side behind good blocks by Charger tight end Kaleb Spiekermeier and left tackle Grant Clark. That score allowed IW to regain the lead at 18-13.
Pittsfield did not go away easily as they responded with another scoring drive of their own. The Saukee QB raced in from 35-yards out and Pittsfield regained the lead at 19-18 midway through the 2nd period.
The see-saw affair continued as IW quickly marched right back down the field after the ensuing kick-off. Pounding away at the Saukee defense with their rushing attack, the Chargers picked up yardage at a steady clip. The drive finally ended in the south end zone on a 20-yard run by junior halfback, Alex Appel. The Chargers then added the critical 2-point conversion on a pass from IW Q Cole Carson to senior tight end Spencer Kirkenslager. That score and conversion regained the lead for the Chargers at 26-19 with about 4 minutes left in the half.
The game swung even more the Chargers way when the IW defense rose up and forced a Saukee punt on the next Pittsfield possession. This defensive stop set the Charger offense up around midfield with an opportunity to take even more control of this back-and-forth offensive affair.
The Charger offense took advantage of the opportunity to assert itself and went to the air to do so. This time Charger QB Cole Carson hit Spencer Kirkenslager downfield for a 46-yard touchdown pass. Carson also added the 2-point conversion on a pass to Connor Beals for a 34-19 Charger edge heading into the halftime break.
The game returned to its see-saw nature in the second half as the teams each scored a pair of TD's. Pittsfield scored first to cut the IW lead to 34-17, but the Chargers responded with a 43-yard touchdown run by Guymon. A Carson pass to Bastert netted the conversion and pushed the Charger lead back up to 42-27.
The pesky Saukees would not go away quietly, but fortunately the pace of their scoring was being slowed down by the Charger defense. Pittsfield cut the Charger lead to 42-35 with only 4 minutes in the game, but the Chargers recovered the ensuing onside-kick attempt.
Illini West would then put the game away with a final touchdown drive. A 19-yard run by Carson and a 14-yard run by Guymon kept the drive going on key 3rd downs. Carson added the final 3-yards and the touchdown with abut 1:24 left on the game clock. Carson tossed the successful conversion pass to Kirkenslager to set the final 50-35 score.
The Chargers outgained Pittsfield 492 yards to 336. IW picked up 398 yards on the ground on 41 carries, with Guymon having a big night with 194 yards on 16 attempts.
Adding to the Charger rushing total were Bastert with 95 yards on 12 attempts, Beals with 32 yards on 3 carries, Appel with 30 yards on 5 rushes and Carson with 47 yards on 5 carries.
Carson had a productive night throwing the football, going 3 of 4 passing for 94 yards. Kirkenslager had a pair of grabs for 72 yards, with Beals having the other 22 yards on one catch.
The lone down spot for the offense was three untimely turnovers. The Chargers lost 3 fumbles, otherwise they were not stopped by the Pittsfield defense. Ball security will need to be a point of emphasis as the Chargers move into the second half of their season.
The Charger defense picked up a pair of turnovers form the Saukees with a fumble recovery and an interception by senior safety Sonny Little. Otherwise the Saukee offense might have been able to keep their team in the lead of this back-and-forth affair.
The Charger tackle chart was topped by junior linebacker Ben Gittings and sophomore nose tackle Braxton Squier with 10 stops each. Kirkenslager had 9 tackle involvement, including 3 tackles for loss. Brett Appel, Hayden Fox, and Bastert had 6 tackles each.
Also on the tackle chart were Sonny Little (5), Clay Huston (5), Cole Lee (5), Connor Beals (4), John Martin (4), Alex Appel (2), Alex McCarty (2), Guymon (2), Ethan Neally (1), and Forest Ellison (1).
The Chargers improved their record to 2-3 overall on the season and 1-1 in the south division of the West Central conference. They will return to action this Friday night when they travel to Macomb for a 7:00 p.m. game with the host Bombers.