AMBOY – Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio took one punch from Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland and decided enough was enough.
After F-C-W came out swinging on its opening drive of the game, the Falcons delivered nary a blow the rest of the way. All of the remaining hits came from the Clippers, and they struck hard and with a vengeance. A-L-O battered F-C-W with such force that it supplied the knockout punch before halftime ever arrived.
The Clippers scored a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter and found the end zone five more times in the second stanza on their way to a 62-7 rout of the Falcons in a quarterfinal-round game of the Illinois 8-Man Football Playoffs on Nov. 4 at the AHS field.
“It’s a good accomplishment for the kids to win the quarterfinal and advance into the semifinal,” said Clippers’ coach Scott Payne. “They played a good game Saturday and it’s always a great thing to get into the semifinals. The players know we have a lot of work ahead of us and the journey isn’t done yet.”
The win kept A-L-O undefeated at 11-0 and propelled it into the 8-Man semifinals where it will travel to Polo (9-2) to face the Marcos at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11. The two teams met in the regular season finale on Oct. 20 and A-L-O whipped Polo, 52-6. F-C-W ended its season with an 8-3 mark.
The Falcons started the contest liked they meant business, accepting the opening kick and chewing through the Clipper defense. A long pass play advanced the ball into A-L-O territory, and then the pounding running of Kesler Collins set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Collins at the 7:24 mark of the opening quarter. Connor Decker booted the extra point for a quick 7-0 Falcon lead.
“On the first drive, Flanagan came out and took it to us. They drove right down the field,” said Payne. “They completed a long pass and then ran it on us, drove the field, and scored. I told the kids, ‘We have to relax. Play your positions, do your job, and everything is going to be fine.
“Our defensive coordinator made a couple of adjustments. After that, the defense started playing better football.”
But F-C-W was able to enjoy its lead for a grand total of 12 seconds. The Clippers, starting at their own 20-yard line, needed just one play to find the end zone when quarterback Eddie Jones connected with tight end Brennan Blaine on a beautifully thrown ball down the middle of the field, hitting Blaine in stride, who took it 80 yards to paydirt. Landon Whelchel ran in the two-point conversion and A-L-O never looked back.
The Falcons went three-and-out on their next possession and punted the ball back to the Clippers, who took over at their own 40-yard line. A-L-O was back in the end zone six plays later on a 21-yard TD pass from Jones to Vincent Zembrzuski, followed by a Whelchel two-point run for a 16-7 Clipper lead.
The Clippers continued their assault in the second quarter, scoring five touchdowns, three of which took just one play to accomplish. A-L-O was equally as dominant on defense, sacking Falcon quarterback Seth Jones in the end zone for a safety and intercepting a Jones pass to set up a Clipper TD.
A-L-O’s Jones, after passing for a pair of touchdowns, did the work himself with his legs when he scampered 11 yards to the end zone to cap off a nine-play, 69-yard drive with 8:49 left before intermission. Jones hit a wide-open Blaine for the two-point conversion and a 24-7 lead.
On F-C-W’s ensuing possession, Seth Jones found himself retreating from a hard-charging Clippers rush and he was ultimately taken down in the end zone by Quinn Leffelman for a safety to make it 26-7.
The Falcons punted the ball back to the Clippers after the safety and A-L-O began its series at the F-C-W 39-yard line. One play later, Blaine gathered in a screen pass from Jones and the big senior rambled his way 39 yards to the end zone. The two-point run came up short.
Back on defense, Clipper defensive back Cody Winn intercepted a Falcon pass and returned it 25 yards to the F-C-W 29-yard line. Again, the Clippers needed just one play to cross the goal line as Blaine went from receiver to running back and raced 29 yards for a TD. Whelchel gathered in a pass from Jones for the two-pointer.
The Falcons ran just three plays on their next possession and gave up the ball on a punt, and incredibly, the Clippers scored their third straight touchdown needing just one play to do it. Whelchel broke through the line and went untouched for a 41-yard touchdown gallop, and Leffelman bulled his way in for the two-point conversion run to increase the lead to 48-7 with 4:53 still to play in the first half.
Once again, the F-C-W offense went nowhere against the stout Clipper defense and punted for the fourth time in the half. A-L-O’s string of one-play scoring drives was snapped, but it did change the scoreboard one more time before intermission. The Clippers embarked on a 10-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in a 4-yard TD run by Leffelman. Brayden Klein did the honors on the two-point run and A-L-O took a commanding 56-7 lead to the locker room.
The second half was played with a running clock and only one touchdown was scored, that on a 31-yard run by Whelchel with 8:30 left in the third period. That finalized a six-play, 52-yard drive.
The Falcons were able to get inside the Clipper red zone early in the fourth frame, the first time they had advanced the ball that far since their opening drive of the day, but they eventually turned the ball over on downs.
The Clipper defense thwarted F-C-W’s final possession when Gio Gatza pounced on a Falcon fumble.
Now A-L-O gets ready for Polo and their star player, Brock Soltow.
“I told my players after the game since we already knew Polo beat Milledgeville, ‘Guys, let’s enjoy this win now, but get this in your head now, it’s going to be a different Polo team than we saw three weeks ago. Polo has won the 8-man championship twice. They play great football in the playoffs.
“Soltow had 28 attempts for 244 yards against Milledgeville. I’ve always said that he is a very, very, good football player who is a triple threat because he can run, throw, and catch. He’s also a good defensive player. We’re going to have our work cut out for us this Saturday because Polo coach Ted Alston and his coaching staff do a phenomenal job every year.”