The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
The Illini West Chargers evened their season record at 4-4 with a dominant 30-0 shut-out victory over the host West Hancock Titans at Hamilton last Friday night. The Illini West victory now sets up this coming Friday’s home game against Macomb as a “win and get in” opportunity for the Chargers as they try to play their way into the IHSA play-offs.
The Chargers came out ready to play against Hancock County rival West Hancock and used a strong early ground game to overcome both the host Titans and the cold, windy, and rainy conditions. Taking the opening kick-off, the Chargers used a 9-play, 50-yard drive to get the ball in the endzone for the game’s first score.
The drive was capped-off by a 10-yard dash around left end by junior tailback Ian Bentzinger. A successful conversion pass from senior quarterback to senior runningback Peyton Brown pushed the early Charger advantage to 8-0 at the 7:01 mark of the first quarter.
After forcing a short West Hancock punt after a 3-play Titan drive on the host’s initial possession, the Chargers would take over offensively again near midfield. This time Illini West would need only three plays to travel the 58 yards to the endzone. The big play was a 40-yard sprint by Brown, who was finally knocked out of bounds near the Titan 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Bergmann would blast up the middle for the final 7 yards and the second Charger touchdown. Bergmann would also add a successful conversion run to push the Charger lead to 16-0 with 2:43 left in the first period.
Following a deep kick by the Chargers, the Titans would go on an extended 15-play drive on their next possession. That drive would use the remainder of the first quarter and half of the 2nd quarter, before the Charger defense finally forced the Titans to give the ball back over on downs at the Charger 23-yard line.
On the 2nd play of the third Illini West drive of the night, senior wide receiver Jerick LeMaire took a short pass from Bergmann and then raced down the north sideline 75-yards to the Chargers’ 3rd touchdown of the first half. Bergmann would again run for the successful 2-point conversion to further extend the Illini West lead to 24-0 with 4:23 left in the half.
The second half would see the teams exchange multiple short drives and punts with neither team really being able to threaten to produce a score. The Charger defense would finally create an opportunity to score when they stopped a 4th and 2 gamble by the Titans deep in West Hancock’s own territory.
The stop turned the ball over to the Charger offense on the Titans’ 28-yard line and the Charger offense need only 3 plays to score from there.
A pair of short runs and then a 20-yard gallop by Bentzinger would have the Chargers in the endzone for their 4th touchdown and Bentzinger’s second touchdown of the night.
The Titans were successful in stopping the conversion attempt this time, setting the games’ eventually final score at 30-0.
A quick look at the games’ statistics really doesn’t show the degree to which the Chargers dominated this game. The Charger offense only amassed 207 total yards, while running only 28 plays. The Titans’ attempt at playing “keep away” worked to some extent as they ran 51 total offensive plays, but only managed 142 total yards.
The Titans did control the time of possession, holding onto the football for over 33 of the games 48 total minutes.
The Chargers rushed 21 times for 121 yards, with most of that total coming on their first two touchdown drives. Bergmann had 8 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown, while Brown picked up 39 yards on 6 attempts. Bentzinger finished with 22 yards on 3 carries, including his two touchdown runs, while Thomas Chandler added 3 carries for 17 yards.
Bergmann and the Charger passing attack were more conservative on this wet and windy night, as the senior quarterback attempted only 7 passes. Those 7 passes included 5 completions for a total of 86 yards. LeMaire was on the receiving end of three of those completions for a total of 89 yards, while the other two receptions went to Bentzinger and junior receiver Jorge Espinoza.
One big factor in the Chargers’ success was they avoided many of the mistakes they have had in some of their losses. They did not turn the ball over even once in this game despite the less-than-optimal playing conditions. They also avoided the costly penalties that have hindered them at times this year. The Chargers were flagged only 2 times in this game for a total of 20 yards.
They will need to have both of those areas under control for this week’s pivotal match-up with the Macomb Bombers.
The Charger tackle chart was led this week by the guys up front. Junior defensive end Reece Shoup led the way with 9 total stops, including 3 tackles for loss. Bentzinger was involved in 6 tackles from his inside linebacker spot, while senior defensive back Max Dittmer added 5 stops. Junior linebacker Thomas Chandler and senior defensive end Aiden Moore were involved in 4 tackles apiece.
Junior outside linebacker Bradly Miller added 3 tackles, while seniors Kaleb Krenshaw, Lucas Finch, Braxton Heath, and LeMaire were involved in two stops apiece. Also on the tackle chart were Nick Huls, Bryant Rivera, Hunter Eland, Eli Siverly, Shawn Watkins, and Carson Purdy.
The Chargers return to action this Friday night at home against the Macomb Bombers.
The Bombers will come in undefeated at 8-0 and state ranked. The Chargers will need to play their best game of the season to have an opportunity to pull off the upset and extend their season. The game will also be the 2022 “Senior Night”, with kick-off slated for 7:00pm.
The Illini West Chargers celebrated their 2022 senior football team members before the game, but saw their season come to an abrupt end with a 46-0 loss to the visiting Macomb Bombers last Friday night. The Chargers came into the final game of the regular season with a 4-4 overall record and needing an upset win over the undefeated 8-0 Bombers, who are currently ranked #8 in the latest AP Class 4-A poll. Unfortunately, the upset was not to be as the Bombers used a big 2nd quarter offensive outburst to post the win and, thus end the Chargers’ season.
Illini West received the game’s opening kick-off and their plan was to try to keep the ball away from the Macomb’s potent offense as much as possible. The Chargers’ first possession worked that plan to near perfection as they used 18 plays and over half the 1st quarter to drive down inside of the Bomber 20-yard line. That initial possession included some tough inside running by Charger senior quarterback Gannon Bergmann, a couple of short receptions by senior wide-out Jerick Lemaire and junior receiver Jorge Espinoza, and a well-executed fake punt that gained 20-yards and a key first down by Espinoza. Unfortunately, the Charger drive would stall on downs at the Bomber 14-yard line.
Macomb then took over offensively and quickly showed why they are so dangerous on that side of the football. The Bombers used a big 60-yard pass catch and run to flip the field position and put the Chargers on their heels defensively. The Bombers would score five plays later and take an 8-0 lead with just over three minutes left in the 1st quarter.
Although now down by a score, the host Chargers had to feel somewhat positive by the fact that they had held the explosive Bomber offense to a single score after one period of play. Unfortunately, that positive feeling would be short-lived as Bomber big offensive plays, combined with Charger miscues, quickly led to a 24-point second quarter outburst by the visitors. Macomb would enter the halftime break now up 32-0 and with all the game’s momentum.
To their credit, the Chargers came out of the intermission still possessing some resolve and did not go down without a fight. Following a failed onside-kick attempt to start the 2nd half, the Illini West defense stiffened after an initial Macomb first down, and eventually forced a Bomber fumble on Macomb’s 5th play of the 3rd quarter. Charger junior linebacker Ian Bentzinger ripped the ball away from the Bomber runner after the running back was met at the line of scrimmage by of wave of Illini West defenders.
The Charger offense was unable to take advantage of their sudden good fortune and quickly turned the ball back over on downs to Macomb around midfield. The Illini West defense again rose to the occasion and would force a Bomber punt to end the next Bomber possession. Unfortunately, the punt was a good one and would pin the Charger offense inside their own 10-yard line.
Eventually poor field position and the Macomb defense would force another Charger punt. Macomb would take advantage of the short field to work with this time and the Bomber offense would score again to take a 38-0 advantage at the end of the 3rd quarter. Macomb would tack on another touchdown midway through the 4th period to set the final Bomber margin at 46-0 over the Chargers.
The Chargers end their 2022 season with an overall record of 4-5, with all 5 losses coming to teams who will be playing in this weekend’s IHSA state football play-offs. The team thus says “goodbye and good luck” to their 11 senior players, who saw their Charger football careers’ come to a conclusion with Friday night’s loss.
That senior group includes Gannon Bergmann, Peyton Brown, Kaleb Crenshaw, Max Dittmer, Braxton Heath, Brody Helmick, Jerick LeMaire, Aiden Moore, Drake Mudd, Bryant Rivera, and Tyler Yager.