Crim: QHS defense answers when tested, continues to make plays in winning fashion
QUINCY — There’s no questioning the offensive firepower the Quincy High School football team possesses.
Coming off a record-setting sophomore season, quarterback Bradyn Little already has thrown for 1,105 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing nearly 73 percent of his passes through four games.
Tykell Hammers is averaging 16.3 yards per catch and has scored five times on 24 catches to headline a dynamic group of receivers. Running back Jeraius Rice has been almost unstoppable, averaging nearly 7 yards per carry in rushing for 522 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Defensive coordinators, pick your poison.
The Blue Devils, ranked ninth in Class 7A, are averaging 42.5 points per game after improving their record to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Western Big 6 Conference with Friday night’s come-from-behind 34-27 victory over Moline at Flinn Stadium.
The Quincy defense, though, had rarely been tested in blowout victories against Quincy Notre Dame, Alton and Rock Island. It had yielded just 25 points, with 13 of those coming in the fourth quarter, long after games had been decided.
Moline proved to be a stiffer exam.
“All the glory goes to the offense most of the time, but we’re really big on defense wins games,” QHS linebacker Ty Douglas said. “Our defense makes plays every game. We have like six or seven picks. We have fumble recoveries, forced fumbles. We turn the ball over so much.
“We’re really proud of our defense. Obviously, we’re not perfect. We had a lot of mistakes (against Moline) because we’re not perfect. We plan on fixing those.”
The Maroons entered the game having won five straight and 28 of the previous 35 meetings in the series. They gashed the Blue Devils for 523 rushing yards a season ago en route to a 34-20 victory.
Moline followed the same script Friday night. It ran for 152 yards in the first half and took advantage of the penalty-prone hosts and a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown by Adrian Cooper just before halftime to take a 20-19 lead.
The deficit could have been worse. Much worse.
Jack Mettemeyer intercepted a Drew Phelps pass after the Maroons had driven deep into Blue Devil territory on the game’s first possession to snuff out one scoring chance. Then, Adon Byquist punched the ball from the arm of Pablo Perez as the senior back neared the end zone after a long run and Douglas recovered at the 4-yard line to thwart another.
Quincy answered with a 15-play, 96-yard drive capped by a short fourth-down touchdown pass from Little to Caeden Johannessen to give Quincy a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. The cushion was 19-7 before Moline scored twice within 20 seconds in the final 1:23 of the half.
“That play was probably one of the best I’ve ever seen, Adon’s punch-out at the goal line, because that’s six points,” Mettemeyer said. “They’re a good team. We made some mental mistakes and had a lot of penalties (9 for 75 yards) in the first half. We didn’t play as well as we could have.”
The Maroons continued to gouge the Blue Devils on the ground in the third quarter as the teams traded touchdowns. A short scoring run by Perez with 2:08 left in the period — his third of the game — knotted the score at 27.
Moline finished with 243 rushing yards and 352 yards overall, with Corbin Schnell running for 103 yards and Perez 80. By contrast, Quincy had yielded a total of 155 yards on the ground and 81 through the air combined in its first three games.
“They have such a different offense, and we don’t play anyone else that plays like that,” Douglas said. “They’re really good at it and it was hard for us to adjust.
“I was on the field trying to be as loud as I could to everyone, encouraging them to keep giving it their all, that we’re gonna win this game. We knew it was going to be on the defense.”
That unit heeded Douglas’ advice and stiffened when it mattered in the fourth quarter.
Quincy forced a punt early in the period and then tackled punter Andrew Marriott at the Moline 32 after he was forced to scramble following a poor snap. That set up what proved to be the decisive 3-yard touchdown run by Rice, his third of the game, with 7:42 to go to put the Blue Devils back on top.
The defense then forced another three-and-out. Quincy’s chance to run out the clock stalled after seven plays at the Moline 26-yard line with 2:35 remaining, however, giving Phelps and the Maroons enough time to quickly drive to the Blue Devils’ 21 to nervously quiet the home crowd.
A sack by the Blue Devils’ Jack Hammock pushed the ball back to the 26. One play later, Rico Clay stepped in front of John Nienhaus to intercept Phelps’ sideline pass at the 2 and return it to midfield with 39.7 seconds remaining to seal the win and begin the celebration.
“After we scored the second touchdown (in the second half) to get up by seven, we knew we had to stop them,” Mettemeyer said. “We knew they were probably going to come out and try to pass (on the final drive), so the corners and safeties had to lock down. We had to trust our defensive line and linebackers to get there.”
In the end, despite some missteps, the Quincy defense made enough plays to earn a share of the spotlight in a game that could serve as a steppingstone as it seeks its first WB6 title since 2016.
“This game was really good for us,” said Douglas, who again led the Blue Devils in tackles with 11. “We had not been used to close games. We needed to lock this up. We realized after halftime that we just needed to pick it up. We knew we were better than them. We just had to lock in.
“It’s not just my show. As long as we win, as long as we play great, as long as my defense is doing whatever they have to do, I’m happy. I’m proud of my team because we’re 4-0 right now, and that’s history for our school.”
A history that continues to be written.
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