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PAXTON — In the first quarter, PBL had Momence’s offense pinned at its own five-yard line.
From there, DeAndre Wright did what he does best — break through for a big run. He took a carry off the right tackle and made a cut to the left toward the end zone for a 95-yard touchdown to put Momence ahead 7-0 with 3:01 left in the first quarter.
It was that kind of day for PBL, as Wright gained 365 yards on 21 carries and scored five touchdowns to lead the Redskins to a 52-29 victory.
“We knew all week that we needed to tackle DeAndre Wright, and we didn’t tackle him,” PBL head coach Jeff Graham said. “There were times when we were there and had him wrapped up, and he got away. He’s a good running back, and a lot of credit goes to them. They got the job done, and we didn’t.”
With the loss, the Panthers fall to .500 with a 4-4 record overall (1-4 Sangamon Valley Conference). They will need a win at St. Joseph-Ogden next Friday to get to the playoffs.
“I don’t know. Right now, I’m replaying tonight’s game over in my head,” Graham said. “I know we need another win to get in the playoffs, but right now my focus is on some of the things that happened tonight. Win or lose, tomorrow morning, we’ll get up and start taking a look at St. Joe and go from there.”
Meanwhile, Momence (6-2, 3-2 SVC) clinches a playoff berth with its win over PBL.
“It’s nice to know that now we’re guaranteed a playoff spot,” Momence head coach Matt Fox said. “It’s good. I’m very proud of these kids. We’ve still got one more big game against Central. Hopefully, we can play well there and see what happens, but it’s nice to know that you’re in the playoffs for sure, especially with one week to go.”
As well as Wright’s running abilities, the Redskins earned their playoff spot by stopping PBL’s offense.
The Panthers managed to gain only 102 yards on the ground, compared to Momence’s 429 rushing yards. Jesse Houtzel was PBL’s leading rusher with 49 yards on 12 carries.
“We didn’t execute as well as we have in the past,” Graham said. “When we threw the ball, we had some dropped passes. In our scheme, you have to be able to execute. I think I’ve emphasized almost every week about the importance of our execution. Execution means that everybody has to take care of their own little area. Everybody has to take care of their assignment. If that includes blocking, catching, running or whatever, everybody has to take care of their own little assignment. That’s very important in our scheme. We didn’t get that done.”
Lamar Watson led Momence’s defensive effort with four tackles for loss of yards.
“I have to Momence credit, too,” Graham said. “They played very well. They have some good players. Lamar Watson was just absolutely relentless out there for them. Montel Paino, their little noseguard, did a really nice job disrupting everything. That’s the way it is.”
The Panthers got the ball moving down the field in hte second quarter thanks to some solid passing from Weston Weber.
After Wright scored on a 12-yard run — a drive set up by a 58-yard reception by Wright, who also finished tha game with two catches for 71 yards — to increase the Redskins’ lead to 14-0 with 10:50 left in the second quarter, Weber threw two touchdown passes to tie the game at 14-14.
Drew Schrodt set up the first touchdown with a 49-yard reception that put PBL on Momence’s 23-yard line.
Three plays later, Weber found Trent Wooten on the left side, who scored from 30 yards to cut the Redskins’ lead to 14-7 with 9:01 left in the second quarter.
On Momence’s ensuing possession, Wooten gave PBL the ball back deep in Redskin territory by intercepting an Aaron Cantwell pass.
On a third-and-nine in the red zone, Weber connected on a pass over the middle to Zac Weisenbarn, who eluded an Austin Saindon tackle attempt and trotted 19 yards for the game-tying touchdown with 6:38 left in the second quarter.
Weber finished the first half completing 4-of-6 passing attempts for 87 yards. He accumulated 176 passing yards while throwing 8-of-16, a 50-percent completion percentage that probably would have been higher if not for some dropped passes and pressure from the Momence defense.
“Weston threw the ball well when we gave him time to throw the ball,” Graham said. “We’ve always known that Weber can throw the ball. We just have to give him time. We have to catch the ball. Everybody has to do their assignment, but Weber did a good job.”
Less than a minute after Weisenbarn’s touchdown catch, Wright scored on a 68-yard touchdown to give Momence the lead again at 21-14 with 5:46 left in the first half.
The Redskins scored two more touchdowns before halftime, as Tony Greenwood intercepted a Weber pass intended for Wooten and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown to put his team up 27-14.
Wright scored on a 24-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-four to give Momence a 33-14 lead at halftime. He finished the first half with 210 yards on nine carries.
The Redskins finished the game with a total of 429 yards rushing.
“(Wright) did a good job,” Fox said. “He runs hard. He’s a really competitive kid, and that makes it nice for him. I thought our offensive line played really well. They did a good job against their defensive front. PBL threw a lot of different looks at us with their fronts and their alignments, and I thought our offensive line did really well.”
The Panthers got a break early in the second half, as Momence muffed a punt that Will Boman recovered.
The turnover set up a 16-yard touchdown by Houtzel that cut PBL’s deficit to 33-21.
The Panthers had a chance to get within one score, as they drove the ball to Momence’s 17-yard line.
On fourth-and-three, however, PBL committed an illegal procedure penalty. On the ensuing fourth-and-eight, Weber rolled out to his left side, only to be stopped at the 21-yard line.
When Weber completed a 64-yard pass to Schrodt on PBL’s next possession, it looked like the Panthers had an opportunity to score, this time from Momence’s one-yard line.
The play, however, was called back due to a holding penalty.
“I thought PBL played really hard,” Fox said. “I think they’re very well-coached, and I thought it was a really competitive game, and we were fortunate enough to come out on top.”
The Redskins’ ensuing possession resulted in a nine-yard touchdown by Wright that increased their lead to 40-21 with 6:44 left in the fourth quarter.
During that drive, PBL’s Vaughn Gentzler was called for a pass interference penalty that put the ball on the Panthers’ 19-yard line. The call promptedPBL defensive coordinator Doug McCoy to toss his visor in the air and Graham to step onto the field to argue with the referees.
Nevertheless, the Redskins held the 19-point lead, which would be decreased to 40-29 on a three-yard run by Houtzel with 5:50 left in the fourth quarter.
Momence responded with touchdown runs of 12 and 36 yards by Cantwell and LeAnthony Reasonover, respectively.
“I said before we came into the game that we had to match PBL’s intensity, and I was really proud that we were able to do that,” Fox said.
For senior PBL players Wolf Burkhardt, Nick Heisler, Josh Hopkins, Jesse Houtzel, Reno Jamison, Wil McClure, Jordan McCreary, Jacob Meyer, Hayden Morris and Zac Weisenbarn, last Friday’s Senior Night game was their last chance to be in their football jerseys for a regular season home game.
For McCreary, it might have been his last chance to step onto a high school gridiron at all. He left the game in the second half due to an ankle injury.
“Unfortunately, these seniors, their last regular season home game, they don’t want to have an outcome like that,” Graham said. “You always want to win your last home game. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Jordan or the trainers yet about what’s going on with Jordan. We’ll see what’s going on there and assess that.”
The PBL freshmen lost their first game of the season at home on Thursday.
The Panthers (5-1) fell to Momence by a score of 40-14. They will play in their regular season finale at St. Joseph-Ogden.