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Chargers Fall On The Road To Blue Bullets, 42-12

The Illini West Chargers traveled to Knoxville last Friday night for a pivotal conference football tilt with the unbeaten, and state-ranked, Knoxville Blue Bullets. The game started well for the Chargers, as they took an early lead, but the good feelings were short-lived as the Blue Bullets would quickly comeback and take control of the game. Eventually, Knoxville would impose its will and pull away for a 42-12 victory. Knoxville improved to 6-0 with the win, while the Chargers saw their season slate fall to 3-3.

The Chargers opened the game on a very positive note when they took the opening kick-off and marched 65 yards in 10 plays for the game’s opening score at 6:53 of the first period. The big play of the drive was a 35-yard run by senior running back Jorge Espinoza. A 27-yard dash around left end by IW senior running back Ian Bentzinger capped the drive as the Chargers took the early lead. The 2-point conversion run came up short, but IW had the early 6-0 lead.

The Blue Bullets quickly responded with a 5-minute scoring drive of their own after returning the ensuing Charger kick-off out to near mid-field. Knoxville used its power running attack to methodically grind out chunks of yardage and eventually reached the endzone on a 2-yard run. A successful conversion pass gave the host Blue Bullets a lead they would never relinquish at 8-6 with 1:46 left in the first quarter.

The Charger offense would bog down for the remainder of the half and Knoxville would take advantage with two more scores. One would come on a long 72-yard run and the other would come on a short run after another pounding drive. By the halftime break, the host Blue Bullets had a 23-6 advantage.

Another drive and score in the third quarter had Knoxville up 29-6 and the Chargers seemed to be ready to get back on the bus for the return trip home. However, a big 71-yard run by Bentzinger gave IW new life and closed the Knoxville advantage to 29-12. A long kick-off by Charger senior Jorge Espinoza buried Knoxville at their own 4-yard line and the Chargers seemed to have regained some momentum and new hope for a comeback.

The hope and momentum lasted just one play, however as the Blue Bullet running back would take the ball 96 yards for the score. That play ended any hopes of an IW rally and Charger comeback. Eventually, the Blue Bullets would tack on an additional score to set the game’s final margin at 42-12.

The Chargers were able to gain 249 total yards in the game but ran only 31 total plays from scrimmage. Knoxville controlled time of possession with their power run attack and thus limited IW’s opportunities to score. Bentzinger led the Charger ground attack with 186 yards rushing on 16 attempts. Espinoza had the single carry for 35 yards, junior Nick Johnson had 21 yards on 8 carries, and sophomore Isaiah Knots had two carries for a single yard.

The IW passing attack struggled with junior quarterback Max Kinnamon connecting only once on four attempts. The lone completion was to Johnson, for only 6 yards.

The Charger defense struggled to get off the field against the relentless pounding of the Blue Bullets ground attack. Bentzinger led the Charger tackle chart with 10 total tackle involvements (solo tackles, plus assisted tackle). Knotts and Espinoza were involved in 5 tackles apiece, while Johnson, Stephen Sparks, Bradly Miller, and Shawn Watkins were involved in 4 tackles each.

Also on the tackle chart were Brady Blanton (3 total tackles), Thomas Chandler (2), Izik Jones (2), Nick Huls (2), and Ethan Carlisle (1).

The Chargers will return to action this Friday night when they travel to Aledo to play the Mercer County Golden Eagles at 7:00pm. These teams have some previous history of big-time grid-iron battles, and this game is crucial to both in their push for this year’s play-offs. Both teams are presently 3-3 on the season and looking to make a final play-off push.