The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Despite a furious late rally, the Illini West Chargers couldn't overcome their sloppy early play, in losing to the host ElPaso Gridley Titans 28-22.
The Charger's numerous turnovers (3 fumbles and an interception), missed tackles, and blown assignments were too difficult a hurdle to get over in falling on the road against a quality opponent.
EP-G improved to 2-0 with the win, while the loss drops IW to 1-1 overall early in the 2015 campaign.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Titans jumped out on top in the 2nd frame with 3 consecutive scoring drives.
EP-G benefited greatly from outstanding field position set up by Charger turnovers. EP-G sandwiched a short TD run between a pair of TD passes for a 21-0 lead with 3:30 left in the first half.
IW finally responded with a touchdown of its own, as sophomore QB Kennedy Gooding hit Junior halfback Joe Adkisson in stride for a 63 yard scoring strike.
Gooding then went around left end and dove into the end zone to get the successful conversion run. The teams went into half time with EP-G up 21-8.
The third quarter saw neither team able to crack the goal line. An EP-G touchdown run with 7:00 left on the game clock seemed to spell the end of this game for Illini West.
However the opposite soon proved to be true. Playing with an urgency that had been missing throughout the game's first 45 minutes, the Chargers sprung to life.
Mixing run and pass, the Chargers drove the field for a score. The final two yards came on a TD run by senior halfback Kyle Tanner.
The conversion run failed, leaving IW down 28-14 with 3:16 left to go in the game.
Faced with needing 2 scores in just 3 minutes, the Charger special teams came through by recovering an onside kick.
The IW offense took quick advantage and scored on a 12 yard pass by Gooding to junior tight end Jace Norman in the back of the end zone.
Tanner added a successful conversion run cutting IW's deficit to 28-22 with 1:35 left to play.
Another on side kick attempt by IW was needed to hopefully regain possession of the football, but this time the Titans grabbed the kick and ultimately the game.
EP-G was able to run out the game's final minute and a half.
The Chargers were out gained in this game 357 total yards to 252. The Charger's ground game that was so potent last week was only able to produce 114 yards on 27 attempts on this night.
The IW offense did get a bit of a spark late behind the passing of Gooding. He would finish with 5 completions on 10 attempts for 138 yards in only his second start ever at the QB position.
Norman caught 3 of those passes for 52 yards, while the other receptions were by Adkisson (63 yards) and sophomore halfback Connor Artman (13 yards). Artman also posted 65 yards rushing to pace the anemic IW ground game on this night.
Senior fullback Christian Peacock added 43 yards, while Tanner, Adkisson, and Gooding split 12 yards.
The Charger tackle chart was topped by Norman, Peacock, and Taylor Boston with 10 total tackle involvements (solo tackles plus assists) each.
Also McCune and Brannon Stanuch had 7 tackles each, while Jensen Corzatt, Ross Neff, Dominic Foster, and Aden Trout had 4 each. Also on the chart were Artman (3 tackles), Jordan Patrick (3), Joe Adkisson (3), Landon McKeown (1), and DeVante Jackson (1).
The Charger defense was also aided by the punting of sophomore Parker Yard. Yard had 4 punts for a 36.5 yard average to help IW in the field position battle.
Illini West will return to action this week when they host non-conference opponent LeRoy, a heart of Illinois conference member like El-Paso Gridley.
Both teams will sport a 1-1 overall record, with LeRoy winning this past week over Fisher, 43-21.
LeRoy was 8-3 in 2014, and has been a consistent winner under head coach B. J. Zeleznik.
This game will kick-off at 7:30 p.m.