Crim: High school football postseason games offering intriguing storylines

Quincy Notre Dame coach Jack Cornell addresses his team after its 21-14 victory over Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond in Saturday's Class 2A first-round playoff game in Arthur, Ill. | Photo courtesy Steve Hoffman

Quincy Notre Dame coach Jack Cornell gives a fiery speech to his players following their 21-14 victory over Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs last Saturday. | Photo courtesy Steve Hoffman

QUINCY — High school playoff potpourri:

• Quincy Notre Dame is nothing if not resilient.

The Raiders easily could have played out the string after losing back-to-back winnable games against Southern Boone and Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton to fall to 1-5, seemingly extinguishing their postseason chances.

Instead, they won their final three games in convincing fashion and were rewarded with the 256th and final postseason berth despite a losing record.

QND could have been content to receive a bonus 10th game, especially after falling behind top-seeded and undefeated Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond 14-0 five minutes into Saturday’s Class 2A playoff opener, and then seeing Gavin Doellman’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty.

Yet, the Raiders dug in to make it a one-possession game by halftime, scored two touchdowns in the third quarter and came up with a late defensive stand to post a stunning 21-14 victory.

As a result, they will play Nashville at 1 p.m. this Saturday in a second-round game at Advance Physical Therapy Field.

Who would have guessed that a month ago?

The October turnaround speaks volumes for how Jack Cornell and his coaching staff have kept the team focused and playing hard with the odds stacked against it. A grueling early-season schedule against playoff-caliber opponents has paid dividends down the stretch.

Now we will see if the Raiders (5-5) can continue their improbable march.

Nashville (7-3) defeated Pana 49-7 in its playoff opener. The Hornets are averaging 36.1 points per game and have scored 40 or more five times. However, they also have allowed 35 or more points on four occasions.

Meanwhile, an opportunistic and stubborn QND defense has allowed only two touchdowns in its last four games. (Two other scores came on interception and kickoff returns.)

Junior linebacker Taylin Scott had 16 tackles, including six for loss, and senior defensive end Gabe Terstriep had nine tackles (four for loss) against Arthur. Both also registered double-digit tackles in the regular-season finale against John Burroughs.

Senior Aiden Klauser returned an interception 46 yards for the team’s first touchdown — the first of his two pickoffs on the day. The Raiders have 10 interceptions, with three going for scores.

“For our guys to come back from being down and to win the game at the end, I think it speaks volumes about their character,” Cornell told Muddy River Sports after the Arthur victory.

It certainly does.

• When Monroe City coach David Kirby said his team has “a monster coming up” this Friday in the semifinals of the Missouri Class 2 District 7 playoffs, he wasn’t engaging in hyperbole.

Undefeated and fifth-ranked Bowling Green has obliterated its first 10 opponents this season. The Bobcats are averaging 61.2 points per game and have scored 70 or more points three times, with a high of 82 against Montgomery County and a low of 44 versus Palmyra. Their average margin of victory is a gaudy 49.1 points.

Monroe City, which came within a victory of playing for the Class 1 state title in each of the last two seasons, moved up a class this year and was 10th in the latest state poll after being as high as fourth. The Panthers have won five in a row after dropping back-to-back games to Clarence Cannon Conference foes South Shelby and Centralia.

However, the last time Monroe City played an opponent with an offense as high-powered as Bowling Green it came up on the short end of a 59-6 defeat at the hands of South Shelby in Week 4. The Cardinals, seeded first ahead of Bowling Green in the district, are scoring at a 51.6-point clip.

The Panthers, 8-2 after beating Highland 34-0 in the district opener, rely primarily on an option running game that has produced more than 2,600 yards. They have been paced by sophomores Jayden Holland (808 yards) and Quincy Mayfield (793) and junior Dylan Ross (724).

That compares to just 503 passing yards.

Senior Waylon DeGrave, who rushed for 1,445 yards and 18 touchdowns a year ago before suffering a knee injury in the state quarterfinals, has not carried the ball out of the backfield this season. Deployed as a receiver, he has 14 catches for 226 yards and three touchdowns. He had more than 1,000 receiving yards when he was voted first-team all-state as a sophomore.

Monroe City is averaging 30.6 points per game while yielding 22.9. The shutout against Highland was its first. Bowling Green, meanwhile, has allowed only 27 points in its last five games and 121 overall.

“We’ve been able to sustain drives and keep the chains moving most of the year,” Kirby said. “I thought we allowed some defensive pressures (by Highland). We need to get off the ball a little bit better, a little bit quicker, and we have to sustain blocks (against Bowling Green).”

It will be a tall order.

• Seventh-ranked South Shelby (9-0) will host Clark County (6-4) in the other district semifinal. 

The Cardinals, who had a first-round bye, won the first meeting 44-14 on Sept. 22. Should South Shelby win the rematch, it will host the Monroe City-Bowling Green winner on Nov. 10. The Cardinals have outscored their opponents 464-58.

• West Chicago rarely pressured Quincy High quarterback Bradyn Little in Saturday’s Class 7A opener, and the results were predictable. Given ample time by the offensive line to survey the field, Little completed 19 of 27 passes for 322 yards and five touchdowns in the Blue Devils’ 44-14 romp.

Little has thrown for 2,884 yards — surpassing the 300-yard plateau four times — and 42 TDs. His touchdown total is tied for 18th all-time in Illinois high school history for a single season and he needs four more to move into a tie for eighth. The record is 60 by Jon Beutjer of Wheaton Warrenville South in 1998.

Third-seeded Quincy High (10-0) travels to Wheaton North (7-3) this Saturday for a second-round game. The Blue Devils are averaging nearly 46 points per game and have yet to be held below 34.

Miss Clipping Out Stories to Save for Later?

Click the Purchase Story button below to order a print of this story. We will print it for you on matte photo paper to keep forever.

Related Articles