Homecoming still ‘a good time’ without normal game

Amboy scrimmages junior varsity after Peoria Quest becomes ill

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AMBOY – After news of Peoria Quest becoming ill and canceling the football game that was supposed to be held Friday, Sept. 15 in Amboy, there was a lot of disappointment.

It was the Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio Homecoming a game; a game not only the seniors look forward to, but so do the other classmen, coaches, and community.

Although the Clippers were not able to find an opponent, the administration orchestrated a scrimmage between the varsity and the junior varsity, and all of the Homecoming traditions still came to fruition.

“It was a little weird not having a Homecoming game, but they were able to put something together,” said senior offensive and defensive linemen Landon Montavon. “It was basically like another game. We had fun doing touchdown celebrations and it was a good time. They tried everything they could to get us a last-minute game and it didn’t work out. We still had fun and we forgot that we didn’t have a real game. No one was mad.”

Knowing his players needed to have some fun through a tough situation, coach Scott Payne allowed for touchdown celebrations as junior quarterback Eddie Jones rolled the football at his team like the ball was a bowling ball and the team were pins, junior Quinn Leffelman lobbed the football for Jones to dunk through the uprights, they played duck, duck, goose, and jokes were had.

“We still did all of the same Homecoming stuff like announcing the court, the band played at halftime. I think the kids had a lot of fun Friday night playing in the scrimmage,” Payne said. “It was a little disappointing not having a real game because I think every senior looks forward to their senior year Homecoming game, but it was still nice that the kids got to go out there and have fun playing football.

“The kids asked me before the game if they could do touchdown celebrations and I said yes. I wanted them to have fun. The referees were OK with it and had fun, too. I think that’s what the kids enjoyed the most, doing the touchdown celebrations they see on TV every weekend.

“We told the referees before the game that if Vincent Zembrzuski scores, to throw a flag for excessive celebration because he’s the jokester of the team. We wanted to joke around with him a little bit and the refs were happy to do it. I think all five refs threw a flag at him.”

It was fun for Jones and Leffelman because they got to honor their seniors with a good time even in the middle of the season.

Although they wanted to play, taking an off week, resting, and building team comradery wasn’t a bad omen.

“It was a lot of fun and I liked it. I was bummed out because we didn’t have a game, but it was fun messing around with the junior varsity team and having touchdown celebrations,” said Jones, who couldn’t pick a favorite celebration between duck, duck, goose or the lob. “I feel fresh and I feel it was a good off week where we played the junior varsity team to get ready for Ridgewood.  I feel like we’re ready to get after them.

“Our seniors were bummed out about not having a Homecoming game, but they liked how everything went. We appreciate them for playing with enthusiasm on Friday even though we were only playing the junior varsity.”

Leffelman’s favorite celebration was bowling. He thinks Jones rolled a strike.

“It was fun. It was a good time. We felt for the seniors and we wanted to make it fun for them. It was cool to make some great memories with your friends,” Leffelman said. “We made the best out of it. I think the scrimmage was better than not doing anything. It gave the seniors something to remember. 

“I’ll definitely remember the scrimmage for the rest of my life. Everyone was happy out on the field together.”

Now, it’s back to regular scheduled programming as the Clippers are back in practice to get ready for their Week 5 opponent, Ridgewood. 

The Spartans are the only team A-L-O has played this season with a winning record, 3-1, and have scored more points than they’ve allowed, 174-78.

Payne has scouted and knows about the Ridgewood’s offense as they run an 8-man football version of the Wing-T. This will be the first time the Clippers have seen an offensive display like this in the 2 ½ years they’ve been in 8-man football.

“Ridgewood is a very good football team. They’re very well coached. I know their head coach, Pat Elder, and he is a very good coach that always has his team well-disciplined and fundamentally sound,” Payne said. “Ridgewood runs an offense that we haven’t seen yet. 

“The biggest thing this week is preparing for that offense and making sure our defense understands that they have to stay at home and do their job, not try to run somewhere else and do someone else’s job because the offense they run is so unique.

“I told them on Friday after the scrimmage, ‘We had fun tonight, enjoy your Homecoming weekend, but come Monday, we’re coming to a pivotal part of our season where we have to be focused and ready every day of practice.’”

Payne added his team has to understand where the blocks are going to come from in Ridgewood’s offense and be ready for a play where the Spartans give the ball to their tight end on a sweep similar to the 11-man version of a Double Dive in the Wing-T. 

Montavon and the seniors were happy having fun.

But now, it’s time to be just as happy or more excited playing football again.

“It was pretty good for us to take a rest. I think us being able to rest, we’re going to be ready for Ridgewood,” Montavon said. “We talked before and after the scrimmage about how we can’t let not having a real game get in the way with the rest of our season.

“Our quarterback coach, Tyson Powers, gave us some good words of encouragement about how we need to act this week, keep a good attitude, not worry about not having a game, and get ready for next week.”