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Chargers Beat By Golden Eagles, 36-8

On the first truly cold Friday night of this autumn, (Oct 6) ,the Illini West Chargers found the weather to be the least of their problems as they fell to the host Mercer County Golden Eagles, 36-8. Both teams came into last Friday nightís contest with identical 3-3 records and looking to get not only a leg up in the conference standings, but also in the seasonís late play-off push. Mercer County did just that with the win, while the Chargers will have to regroup for their game this week, as they will host their Hancock County rival, the West Hancock Titans. The Chargers now face the task of having to win out on their two remaining regular season games in the hopes of making the 2023 IHSA state play-offs.The Chargers kicked off to start the game and Mercer County took over offensively at their own 34-yard line. The Golden Eagles needed only 5 plays to cover the 66-yards in just under 3-minutes of action, taking an 8-0 advantage at the 9:17 mark of the games 1st quarter.The Chargers got the ball back and couldnít respond with their initial drive of the game. Eventually, Illini West was forced to punt the ball back to the host Golden Eagles. A good punt flipped the field and forced the Mercer County offense to set up deep in their own territory at the 18-yard line. Undaunted, the Golden Eagles would march down the field again to add another touchdown and widen their advantage to 16-0 late in the first quarter. After the two teams exchanged non-scoring possessions to close out the first quarter, the Chargers would get the ball back deep in their own territory early in the second period. This time the Chargers would respond quickly with a scoring drive of their own. The drive would take only three plays and would culminate with an 88-yard touchdown run by IW senior running back Ian Bentzinger early in the second period.Junior running back Nick Johnson would add the successful conversion run and cut the Golden Eaglesí lead to 16-8 at the 9:41 mark of the second quarter. Unfortunately, that would be as close as the Chargers would get in this contest, as the Golden Eagles would effectively slam the door on the Illini West offense for the remainder of the game. Mercer County would add two more scores in the second quarter for a 28-8 halftime lead and the Golden Eaglesí offense would produce the only score of the second half late in the third quarter to account for the gameís final margin of victory, 36-8. The Chargers just couldnít get much positive going on this cold and windy night at George Pratt Field in Aledo.

The Chargers would produce only 158 total yards of offense, with the majority of that coming on Bentzingerís lone scoring run. The senior running back would finish with 138 total yards rushing on 12 carries. Junior running back Nick Johnson added 11 yards on 6 carries, while sophomore Isaiah Knotts added 11 additional yards on his four rushing attempts.

The Charger passing attack was completely grounded on this night with no completions on only two attempts, and an interception. The Chargers also lost a fumble as they lost the turnover battle in a game where their margin for error was too small to allow for such miscues.

The Charger defense played hard, but found themselves on the field way too much, and ultimately could not hold the Golden Eagle offense at bay. Field position, missed tackles, and alignment issues all contributed to the Charger defenseís inability to get off the field unscathed.

One Charger defender who did play well was senior linebacker/safety Jorge Espinoza. Espinoza finished with 10 total tackles. Espinoza also helped the Charger defensive effort with a 60-yard punt to flip the field midway through the second half.

Junior linebacker Shawn Watkins finished with 8 total tackles, while senior defensive tackle Nick Huls and senior linebacker Thomas Chandler both finished with 7 total tackles. Junior defensive end Roan Jackson, junior safety Brady Blanton, senior defensive back Bradly Miller, and junior safety Nick Johnson finished with 4 tackles apiece. Also finding their way on to the tackle chart were junior defensive back Max Kinnamon, senior defensive back Lucas Finch, and sophomore defensive tackle Izik Jones, and senior linebacker Bentzinger with 2 tackles each.

The Chargers are continuing to work hard to try and secure a play-off spot and must find a way to win their last two regular season games to achieve that objective.

Hancock County rival West Hancock will come to town Friday night in a contest that will be the first step in that two-game challenge. The game will kick-off at 7:00pm.