Clippers set sail to championship

Amboy’s Brody Christoffersen, left, goes horizontal while teammate Landon Montavon stands up Champaign St. Thomas More running back Peace Bumba during action from the playoff semifinals on Nov. 12 at the AHS field. Kip Cheek/Amboy News

Amboy is ready for rematch with West Central

AMBOY — In Week 9 of the regular season, Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio fell to West Central 68-30.

There is only one game left in the season, the 8-Man Football Championship, and there is nothing the Clippers would like more than to avenge the loss while winning a state title.

“We couldn’t ask for a better situation. West Central beat us a month ago,” said Amboy coach Scott Payne. “But, that was a month ago. Now, it’s a different time and a different type of game. The kids know that, and the kids want a second chance at West Central. They can’t wait for Friday to get here. We wouldn’t want any other opponent besides West Central in the title game.

“In the previous game, we tried to play a different style of defense than we usually play. This time we’re not going to do that. We’re going to play the defense we know how to play. Before, we tried to move a couple of kids around to try a few different things. It just didn’t work out. This time they’ll be in their normal spots and we’re going to play our normal defense.

“We’re going to lineup against them and see what happens.”

The rematch, better known as the Illinois 8-Man Football Championship is at 7 p.m. Friday at Monmouth College.

Getting ready for the game, Payne has had plenty of inspiration words for his team.

He has also watched the Heat’s game-winning 25-yard run with five seconds left on the clock that propelled West Central past Polo, 50-48, in the semifinals.

“I watched the tape yesterday. I rewound that play about four or five times to make sure I saw it right,” Payne said. “It was a tough way for Polo to lose. I feel bad for them. It was a great win for West Central.

“They ran that play a lot against Polo. It’s a sweep to the outside. They’re trying to get their all-state, really fast running back to the outside. That’s something we’re going to have to shut down.”

Besides being enthusiastic toward a rematch with West Central, the Clippers are ready to add to the program’s tenured history.

Amboy won an 11-man IHSA Class 2A state title in 1984 and has two runner-up finishes in 1979 and 1982.

Although the Amboy gymnasium will already hold a banner for the 2022 season, the Clippers want it to be a championship banner, not second place.

“The kids are really excited. It has been 38 years since Amboy football has played for a state championship,” Payne said. “These kids have worked really hard with the weightlifting, conditioning, double practices in the summer, and practices all season long to get to this point.

“After the semifinal there were a few guys from the 1984 team on the field congratulating them. My assistant coach, Sam Jones, was on the 1984 team, so he was a little emotional about it after the game. It’s great for the kids. It’s great for the parents. It’s great for the community. It’s great for the high school.

“It’s an exciting time for Amboy.”

Payne isn’t worried about his players having nerves.

The coach who hasn’t coached or played in a state title game isn’t worried about his nerves either. He knows how to work past them.

“Right now, I’m fine. I’m pretty sure on Friday when I wake up at 3 in the morning, I think I’ll get a little nervous as the day goes on,” said Payne, who’s only personal state experience is watching his brother Chris Payne coach the Mount Carroll basketball team at state 20 years ago. “Once that opening kickoff is in the air, the nerves will go away and I’ll focus on coaching the game and following through with our game plan.”

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