COLFAX, Ill. — Ross Riley’s explanation for the Camp Point Central football team’s Class 1A semifinal win over Ridgeview-Lexington was a simple one.
That was fitting because the Panthers’ 44-8 victory was simple domination.
“We were just going, and I was just running. I don’t know what else to say,” exclaimed a jubilant Riley. “It’s an amazing feeling, being a senior. There was no doubt. We never even thought about losing.”
The fourth-ranked Panthers left no doubt with five first-half scoring drives. Central (13-0) will tangle with defending champion and top-ranked Lena-Winslow (13-0) for the state championship at 10 a.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
“It started with the first drive. We thought they would sit in that 4-4 (front),” Central coach Brad Dixon said. “We had some things we liked against it. We just kept churning them out and getting stops the first half. That was huge.”
No. 2 Ridgeview-Lexington (12-1) bowed out in the semifinal round for the second straight season.
“We haven’t had a bad day all year, but today we just didn’t have it,” Mustangs coach Hal Chiodo said. “From play No. 1 it was, ‘Oh, my Lord.’ They blew us off the ball. We’ve usually been able to figure out a way to change it. But they destroyed us at the line of scrimmage. That’s where it all started and finished.”
The Panthers methodically marched to five first-half touchdowns, amassing 289 yards on the ground and 332 total in the opening half to just 47 yards of offense for the Mustangs.
Central landed in the end zone on a 6-yard run by Riley to open the scoring, a 2-yard surge from Drew Paben, a 4-yard Isaac Genenbacher plunge and a pair of 3-yard runs by Riley for a 36-0 halftime lead.
“We play together like brothers,” said Riley, who finished with 108 yards on 16 carries. “Play relentless, play for each other, be a bunch of men and go kick some ass. Balls to the walls to the next round.”
Central extended its advantage to 44-0 in the third quarter on Riley’s fourth touchdown, a 5-yard jaunt.
The Mustangs kept the Panthers from their eighth shutout of the season on a 3-yard touchdown rush from quarterback Alec Thomas, who also ran for the two-point conversion.
The Mustangs had the services of All-State tailback Kaden Farrell for only three carries because of an ankle injury. Farrell netted 5 yards.
“That did take a little life out of us because he makes so many plays for us,” Chiodo said. “We know the superstar he is. I don’t know if that was it or not.”
Logan Friedmansky rushed for 65 yards on 14 carries and Thomas 40 yards on eight attempts for the Mustangs. Thomas completed 3 of 12 passes for 19 yards.
“Ridgeview is a great team. We had all the respect for them,” Dixon said. “We practiced our butt off all week, and the guys just went out and executed.”
Mustangs senior tight end/linebacker Jacob Whitehill admitted the Panthers “were the better team today. We weren’t ready and it shows by the score. They came out and were ready. We weren’t mentally ready. They played their best, and we didn’t play our best. That’s about it.”
Genenbacher piled up 113 yards on the ground on 15 carries. Paben added 51 yards and Gavin Graves had 50 as the Panthers amassed 355 yards rushing.
Quarterback Nick Moore’s lone pass was a 43-yard completion to Genenbacher.
Elijah Genenbacher paced Central with 10 tackles. Friedmansky and Tyler Atkins had 13 stops each to lead Ridgeview-Lexington.
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