CLIPPERS HEAD TO 8-MAN STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

Amboy quarterback Tucker Lindenmeyer tries to break free from the grasp of Champaign St. Thomas More defender Brody Cuppernell during a semifinal-round playoff game on Nov. 12 at the AHS field. Kip Cheek/Amboy News

AMBOY – Being the lone senior on their teams, either Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio quarterback Tucker Lindenmeyer or Champaign St. Thomas More signal-caller Matt DeLorenzo was going to be playing in his last high school football game. Fortunately for Lindenmeyer, he will get another week of practice in helmet and pads, and he will play in one more game.

That game will be for all the marbles in Illinois 8-Man Football as the fifth-seeded Clippers earned a trip to the state championship game by rolling over the eighth-seeded Sabers, 54-22, in the semifinal-round of the 8-Man Playoffs on Nov. 12 at the AHS field.

Amboy (10-2) will face off against Biggsville West Central (12-0) in the state championship game on Friday, Nov. 18 at Monmouth College in Monmouth. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. The Clippers and the Heat battled in the regular season finale on Oct. 21, with the victory going to West Central, 68-30.

While the Clippers took advantage of St. Thomas More turnovers and penalties, it was quite clear from the beginning that Amboy was the superior team. Amboy received the game’s opening kick, and starting at its own 30-yard line, marched 70 yards in a little over two minutes to claim a speedy 8-0 lead. Landon Whelchel capped off the long drive with an 8-yard touchdown run, followed by a Lindenmeyer two-point conversion run for an 8-0 Amboy lead.

After each team exchanged punts on their next offensive possessions, the Sabers committed their first turnover of the game and the Clippers parlayed that into another score. After taking a snap from center, DeLorenzo turned and pitched the ball into the St. Thomas More backfield, but there was no one there to receive the toss, and Amboy’s Quinn Leffelman pounced on the ball at the Saber 38-yard line.

The Clippers quickly turned that miscue into a touchdown when Whelchel raced 28 yards to the end zone at the 2:56 mark of the opening stanza. The two-point pass was incomplete and Amboy owned a 14-0 lead.

St. Thomas More showed a little life when Ben Horn took the ensuing kickoff back 80 yards for a touchdown, and then DeLorenzo ran in the two-point try, but it was all Clippers after that.

Amboy had to punt on its next series, and then the Clippers forced the Sabers into a punt, which sailed 53 yards down to the Amboy 5-yard line to finish out the first quarter.

Amboy wasn’t daunted by its poor field possession as it proceeded to go 95 yards for a TD, the final 57 yards covered by Whelchel on a scamper to paydirt with 9:56 left in the half. The two-point pass was incomplete. In addition to Whelchel’s run, the other big play of the drive was a long pass from Lindenmeyer to Vincent Zembrzuski that helped get the Clippers out of the hole.

St. Thomas More managed to move the ball into Amboy territory on its next possession, but the Clipper defense stiffened and held the Sabers on downs, taking over at their own 31-yard line.

Facing a third-and-12 from its own 29, Lindenmeyer flung a short screen pass to Brennan Blaine, who managed to elude several Saber defenders on his way to a 71-yard touchdown at the 6:35 mark of the second period. Lindenmeyer’s successful two-point run made it 28-8.

St. Thomas More’s second turnover of the contest once again resulted in an Amboy score. On Amboy’s kickoff back to the Sabers, the ball bounded off of a St. Thomas More player and was recovered by the Clippers’ Caleb Yanos. On the play, the Sabers were whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which moved the ball all the way to the St. Thomas More 22-yard line. From there, Amboy tallied again when Leffelman bulled his way into the end zone from 6 yards out. The two-point pass was no good, and Amboy led 34-8.

While only 4:43 remained on the first-half clock, each team managed to score twice before intermission. St. Thomas More needed only 25 seconds to find the end zone when DeLorenzo scrambled 37 yards to the end zone, followed by a Peace Bumba two-point run.

Amboy answered when it put together a 52-yard scoring drive, the final play being a Leffelman 5-yard TD run. Zembrzuski hauled in a Lindenmeyer pass for the two-pointer.

St. Thomas More countered with a 68-yard scoring drive that took just under a minute and a half to complete. DeLorenzo’s 18-yard run sealed the deal with 14 seconds left in the half to make it 42-22.

Miraculously, the Clippers tallied yet another touchdown before intermission. Whelchel ran the kickoff back to the Saber 35-yard line with 5 seconds remaining, then Lindenmeyer lofted a pass toward the left side of the end zone that Blaine somehow came down with as time expired. After the two-point attempt was unsuccessful, Amboy carried a 48-22 lead to the locker room.

There was no scoring in the third quarter, with each team getting an interception. Reid Cradduck picked off a Lindenmeyer pass in the end zone, while Eddie Jones returned the favor when he swiped a DeLorenzo offering at the Amboy 30-yard line.

Both teams lost fumbles to start the fourth frame. Blaine fell on a DeLorenzo miscue at the Amboy 48, and the Clippers took advantage of that turnover to tack on the final touchdown of the game. Leffelman completed the 52-yard drive with an 8-yard run to the end zone with 6:56 left. The two-point run came up short.

St. Thomas More had one last chance at a score when it drove inside the Amboy 10-yard line, but the Clipper defense denied the opportunity. Amboy’s offense was able to keep the ball the final five minutes of the game.

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