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Chargers Top Titans in Hancock County Gridiron Battle, 50-20

In the first game of a pivotal 2-game stretch run to try to secure an IHSA football play-off bid, the Illini West Chargers did what they needed to do by beating Hancock County rival West Hancock 50 – 20 last Friday night. The host Chargers jumped out early to a leadthat they never relinquished and kept the upset-minded Titans at bay in posting their 4th win of the season against 4 losses. Meanwhile, the visiting Titans dropped to 1 – 7 with the loss.

Receiving the game’s opening kick-off, the Chargers set up offense deep in their own territory at the 15-yard line. The Illini West offense was up to the task and would score 5 plays later when senior running back Ian Bentzinger raced 60 yards down the Chargers sideline for the score. A successful 2-point conversion run by junior Nick Johnson had the Chargers up 8 – 0 only a little over two minutes into the contest.

The teams would trade possessions for the remainder of the first period before a nice punt return by West Hancock would set the visiting Titans up deep in IW territory. Three plays later the Titans would find the north endzone for their first score and tie the game at 8 – 8 at the 11:55 mark of the second period.

Charger senior Lucas Finch took the ensuing Titan kick-off back 36 yards to midfield and a Titan face mask penalty on the tackle set the Charger offense up at the West Hancock 35-yard line. Johnson then took the hand-off and dashed around the left end, slashing 33 yards to the West Hancock 2-yard line. Charger senior Jorge Espinoza pounded the ball into the endzone from there and a successful conversion run by sophomore Isaiah Knotts put Illini West back in front 16 – 8 at the 9:26 mark of the first half.

The West Hancock offense was unable to move the ball on their next possession against a fired-up Charger defense and the Titans were forced to put the ball away. It took the Illini West offense only 4 plays to find the endzone again, as Johnson raced 43 yards through the middle of the Titan defense for the third Charger TD of the night and a 22 – 8 Illini West lead at 6:17 of the first half.

The Titans then took over possession following the Charger kick-off at their own 30-yard line. Feeling the pressure to score again before the half ended, West Hancock chose to go for it on 4th and one at midfield. The Charger defense again rose to the occasion and turned away the Titan running back for no gain, giving the ball back to the Charger offense. The Illini West offense quickly responded, as Bentzinger took the hand-off on the next play and raced 50 yards for the final score of the first half. The Chargers would go into halftime with a 28 – 8 advantage.

Coming out of the break, the Chargers set the tone with their defense by forcing a punt of the Titan’s first possession of the second half. The IW offense continued to pound away with their run game and eventually would score again on Bentzinger’s 3rd touchdown of the night. This score would push the IW advantage to 34 - 8. West Hancock would respond this time with a scoring drive of their own and would score via the pass at

the 6:00 minute mark of the 3rd quarter to close the gap to 34 – 12.

The fourth period would see the Chargers put the game away with two more touchdowns before a final Titan score very late. The Chargers first touchdown of the 4th frame came on an 18-yard pass from sophomore QB Ethan Carlisle to junior end Stephan Sparks. A successful conversion run by Carlisle pushed the IW advantage to 42 – 12.

An interception by Charger junior safety Khile Stonger would thwart the next Titan possession and give the ball right back to the IW offense. This time a 2-yard run by Espinoza would score the final Charger touchdown of the night and Knotts would close the IW scoring with a successful conversion run. A late Titan touchdown would set the final score at 50 – 20 in favor of the host Chargers.

The Charger offense produced 496 yards on this night with 478 of that coming on the ground. Bentizinger totaled 201 yards on 14 carries, while Johnson also topped the century mark with 129 yards on 13 rushing attempts. Espinoza chipped in 9 carries for 85 yards, and Knotts added 6 attempts for 63 yards. Carlisle had one carry for 10 yards and completed the lone Charger pass attempt on his scoring strike to Sparks.

Much of the credit for the outstanding rushing total must go to the Charger offensive line. Ends Lucas Finch Stephen Sparks; tackles Isaiah Geissler and Johnny Ravenscraft; guards Thomas Chandler, Carson Purdy, and Shawn Watkins; and center Nick Huls did great work up front providing the needed rushing lanes for the Illini West backs to have a huge night on the ground.

The Charger defense also came up big on this night as they rose to the challenge of putting the clamps on a Titan aerial attack that had been very successful in every game this season. The Charger secondary kept the “big play” West Hancock offense looking for answers most of the night and not finding any solutions.

The IW secondary covered and tackled the Titans’ talented receiving corps at a high level all night long. Defensive backs Max Kinnamon (2 tackles), Jordan Miller (5 tackles), Khile Stonger (2 tackles), Isaiah Knotts (5 tackles), Lucas Finch (2 tackles) and Nick Johnson (3 tackles) played by far their best game of the season at a time when it was needed most.

The rest of the Charger defense put the Titan rushing attack on ice for most of the evening as well. Jorge Espinoza and Roan Jackson topped the tackle chart with 6 tackles each, while Thomas Chandler, Nick Huls and Stephen Sparks chipped in with 5 tackles apiece. Also included on the Charger tackle chart were Isaiah Geissler, Ian Bentzinger, Ethan Carlisle, Carson Purdy and Justin Baxter with one tackle each.

The Chargers will return to action this Friday night (20th) when they go on the road to face the Central A&M Raiders of Moweaqua. The trip across the state will probably take over three hours but will be well worth it if the Chargers can secure that precious 5th win that would make them play-off eligible.

Kick-off is set for 7:00pm.