The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
The Illini West Chargers football team was beaten at its own game this past Saturday afternoon in the IHSA play-offs.
The Chargers had spent much of this season pounding teams with its physical running game and hard-nosed style of play and received a dose of their own medicine this weekend.
The Chargers never got their rushing game established and were dominated by visiting Clifton Central on the line of scrimmage during a 28-0 Class 2A second-round playoff loss at Fuzz Berges Field in Carthage.
Illini West, which finished the season 8-3, was held to only 90 rushing yards on 22 carries and 126 yards of total offense. It was the Chargers first shutout loss since a 28-0 setback to west Carroll in the first round of the 2007 playoffs.
Clifton Central, the top seed in the Charger s play-off quadrant and now 10-1 on the season, will return home to host Kewanee Wethersfield/Annawan in the quarterfinals next weekend.
The bad day for the Chargers started almost immediately.
The Comets won the coin toss and deferred their choice to the second half, allowing the Chargers to receive the opening kick-off. Unfortunately for Illini West, the Chargers were unable to field the Comets squib kick and Clifton Central took over at the Chargers 29-yard-line.
Six plays later, the Comets scored on a touchdown pass and the successful extra point kick put Clifton up 7-0.
After forcing the Chargers to punt on the ensuing possession, Clifton Central reeled off an eight play, 54-yard drive for a 14-0 lead with 3:22 left in the first quarter.
Illini West took the ball into Clifton Central territory only twice in the game. The first time came on the final possession of the first half when the Chargers--trailing 20-0--got to the Comets 40 yard line. That drive ended with a Comet pass interception.
Charger senior quarterback Brody Gronewold, who accounted for 89 of Illini West s 126 yards, had a chance to put the Chargers on the scoreboard when he ran up the middle for an apparent 54-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter. It was called back because of an illegal formation penalty and two plays later, and Illini West was forced to punt.
The Chargers were forced to throw way more than they are comfortable with as the running game could find little headway against the bigger, more physical Comets. The result was lots of defensive pressure and multiple plays for no gain or lost yardage.
Illini West had five possessions end in punts, lost two fumbles, and threw three interceptions. The Chargers were also flagged for 7 penalties resulting in 55 yards lost.
The Charger defense put up a valiant effort throughout much of the game, but in the end they were overcome by being on the field too much against a bigger opponent. Clifton ran the ball 42 times for 291 yards and completed 9 of 17 passes for another 71 yards.
The Chargers walk away from this season very disappointed in how it ended, but certainly the young men can be commended for the time and effort they put in to make it a successful campaign overall. This is especially true for the 17 seniors who played their final football game for Illini West High School.
Andrew Brackenbury, Alex Appel, Kaleb Spiekermeier, Alex Ourth, Forrest Ellison, Payton Ryner, Ben Gittings, Devin Lionberger, Dakota Miller, Kale Carlisle, Andrew McGhghy, Gage Blake, Ethan Neally, Alec McCarty, Clay Huston, Sam Stone, and Brody Gronewold are all to be commended for representing the Charger football team, Illini West High School, and their communities with class and integrity.
This group set a standard in their off-season preparation that hopefully the young men that follow them will embrace as well, because it certainly was a big key to the success that they were able to have on the field on Friday nights this fall.
Great job guys.