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LEROY — A bend-but-don’t-break defense kept Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley in the game against a high-powered LeRoy offense, but key plays on special teams led the Panthers to a 47-21 win over the visiting Falcons.
The Falcons’ defense refused to give up easily, as they made the Panthers earn every yard they gained. LeRoy had two drives that were more than 10 plays and ended in fumbles recovered inside the GCMS 5-yard line.
LeRoy coach BJ Zeleznik credited the Knights’ defense for keeping LeRoy’s offense mostly off the scoreboard in the first half. But he believed the bigger Panthers were able to wear down the Falcons in the second half.
“They stepped up and challenged us offensively,” Zeleznik said, “I thought our offensive line and backs played well, and we were able to wear them down in the second half.”
The Knights fell behind 14-0 after LeRoy blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone. But late in the first half, the Falcons cut into the lead with a spectacular play.
Quarterback Jesse Boma was in the grasp of a LeRoy defender for a sack near the goal line, but he escaped. He then avoided three more LeRoy defenders, scrambled back to his right and threw on the run to Jordan Seymour.
Seymour hauled in the pass, and then it was his turn to make some highlight reel plays. Seymour dodged a group of defenders in the Panther secondary, then turned on the speed to race for a 90-yard touchdown.
The extra point made the score 14-7 LeRoy.
But from that point on, the Panthers controlled the action. A quick drive to conclude the first half put LeRoy up 14 going into the half. Then on the opening kick in the second half, LeRoy’s Nick Aupperle returned the ball 85 yards for a touchdown.
Zeleznik said the big plays on special teams — the blocked punt and kick return — made a major impact on the game.
“It’s a boost,” Zeleznik said, “It takes so much pressure off the offense and defense when you can find other ways to score. It makes a big difference.”
Lucas Hixson added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Hixon had 80 yards rushing to go along with his two scores.
Boma had 130 yards passing, including the 90-yard touchdown.
“Jesse Boma threw the ball very well,” GCMS head coach Mike Allen said.
The Falcons are now 1-2 on the season, after playing two of the top teams in the Heart of Illinois Conference in back-to-back weeks in LeRoy and Tri-Valley.
GCMS will look to rebound next week against undefeated Ridgeview.