The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
The Illini West Chargers had their 2013 play-off journey brought to a quick and decisive end when they were soundly beaten on the road by the Rockridge Rockets last Friday evening, 46-6. The Rockets, unbeaten and ranked #1 in the final state rankings for Class 2-A, lived up to their reputation as an explosive offensive juggernaut by scoring early and often against the overmatched Chargers.
The Rockets took the opening kick-off and a few relatively short runs and a pass completion put the ball quickly in IW territory. Rockridge then found the end zone for the first time on a 30-yard dash by their all-state QB. The accurate PAT kick put the host Rockets up early, 7-0.
The talented Rocket QB then added another quick score on a 70-yard sprint after the Chargers were forced to punt on their first possession. He was later joined in the first half scoring frenzy by the Rockets' all-state halfback on another mad dash through the seemingly helpless Charger defense. In all, the talented Rocket duo rushed for over 400 yards in the first half alone.
Down quickly 21-0, the Chargers had their lone bright spot and glimmer of hope for the game. Illini West junior halfback Nolan Ard fielded the ensuing kick-off after the third Rocket score, and raced 80 yards to the far end zone to close the gap to 21-6.
This gave the Chargers defense a spark and they forced a fumble by the Rocket QB on the next Rockridge possession and then recovered the football near midfield. A potential score here by the IW offense would get the Chargers right back in the game.
Thoughts of a big Illini West comeback were short-lived however, as the Rockets' defense stiffened and forced the Chargers into a third and long. Finding little room to run, IW was forced to pass and the errant Charger toss was intercepted and returned 60-yards for a touchdown. This score seemed to sweep all doubt away about the outcome of this game.
The Chargers went into the half-time break down 39-6 and although they played hard the game's final 24 minutes it was a difficult end to a season that had begun only a few months ago with great hope and expectation. The young men worked very hard but never found the ultimate success that they had hoped to achieve.
The statistical breakdown reflects Rockridge's dominance in this contest. They more than doubled Illini West in total yardage, amassing over 500 total yards to a mere 164 total yards for the Chargers.
IW picked up 121 yards rushing on 34 attempts, much of that total coming in the second half when the game was no longer in doubt. Ard, Jacob Sholl, Dalton Merry, Kaden Huston, Braden Bennett, Fisher Boyle, and Leighton Johnson all had carries in the contest.
The Chargers added 43 yards through the air as Braden Bennett connected on 2 of 8 pass attempts. Ard had one catch for 2 yards, while senior tight end Braxton Boyer had a nice 41-yard catch and run.
The Charger tackle chart was topped by senior defensive tackle Collen Swanson's 5 total stops. Braxton Squier and Dalton Merry had 4 total tackles each, while Dylan Chandler, Colton Ragain, Nolan Ard, Jacob Gittings, Bryor Grotts and Braxton Boyer were involved in 3 tackles each.
Blaze Murfin, Jacob Sholl, Holt McKenney, and Dalton Elliott notched a pair of tackles each, while Kendall Hall, Tyler Willdrick, Nick Klein, Reeves Huston, Fisher Boyle, Gabe Thompson, Leighton Johnson, Dakota Huss, and Colton Mellinger recorded one tackle each.
The Chargers finish their season with an overall record of 6-4 and an appearance in the state play-offs for the 7th time in the school's brief 7 year existence. The program will now have to say, "thank you and goodbye" to a fine group of 16 seniors, who put in a lot of time and hard work over the past several years to help make the Charger football program successful.
The seniors include Leighton Johnson, Tyler Willdrick, Brayden Carroll, Braxton Squier, Dylan Chandler, Holt McKenney, Gabe Thompson, Braxton Boyer, Bryor Grotts, Collen Swanson, Jacob Gittings, Nick Klein, Reeves Huston, Dakota Huss, Dalton Elliott, and Fisher Boyle. These young men represented themselves and the program well and are to be commended for their commitment and dedication to the program.