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GILMAN — After Saturday’s CIFL championship game, PBL Juniors coach Andy Pound said his team had a good season upon which the players should hold their heads up high.
If not for GCMS, that good season would be an undefeated one. As it is, however, PBL ended its season with a record of 7-2 and with individual second-place trophies after the Falcons defeated the Juniors 38-12.
“It was a good season,” Pound said. “I feel like the kids worked hard all year long and never gave up. We ended up 7-2 on the year. In football, that’s a fantastic record. We have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.”
It was GCMS’ second victory of the season over PBL. The Falcons won 30-12 in Week 4.
“Gibson made some good plays today, and there were some plays that we didn’t make, and that’s just the difference in the game,” Pound said. “But it was just an unbelievable year overall. We played very, very well all year long.”
On PBL’s first possession, it managed to get a drive going when Levi Frichtl burst through a hole for a long run to the GCMS 34-yard line. The Juniors, however, fumbled the ball on their next play.
The turnover led to a 31-yard touchdown pass from Conner Birky that put GCMS up 8-0 with 5:08 left in the game.
With 8:07 left to play in the second quarter, Birky connected on another touchdown. He found Jared Trantina on the right side for a 51-yard score to extend the Falcons’ lead to 16-0.
Birky would finish the game with three touchdown passes, including a long one with 4:59 remaining in the third quarter that gave GCMS a 38-12 lead.
“The (GCMS) quarterback made some good throws,” Pound said. “They had a couple of extremely tall receivers. They just threw it over our head, and there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it besides tackle after the catch.”
With little more than two minutes remaining in the first half, PBL had an opportunity to cut GCMS’ 16-0 lead by at least 10. An incomplete pass, however, stalled the drive with 2:04 left until halftime.
The PBL Juniors would get another possession before halftime. Mason Ecker took advantage, scoring on a 41-yard run down the left sideline with two seconds left in the first half.
Ecker would score another touchdown on a kickoff return with 5:12 remaining in the third quarter.
“He’s a good athlete,” Pound said. “We’re going to lose him next year. He’s a sixth-grader, so he’ll move up (to Seniors). He promised me that he’s going to keep at it next year and play next year.”
Ecker is one of several PBL Juniors that will be moving up to the Seniors squad next year.
“This sixth-grade group is very, very talented and very, very fast. Rocky’s going to have a lot of talent on this team next year,” Pound said. “The fifth-graders on this team are also very talented. We’ve got some good size coming back and also some good speed for the outside next year. There’s a lot of talent there. Some of it is moving on, but we’re getting some of back, so I’m happy.”
Wherever the kids go next year, Pound said he is proud of every one of them for their efforts this season.
“I just love this group of kids,” Pound said. “There’s a lot of heart. They never gave up. The mental toughness throughout the year got stronger. I just enjoyed seeing how they came along throughout the year.
“We had a couple of kids this year that have never played football before. They came a long way. One of them ended up playing middle linebacker at the end of the game and held his own.”
In addition to Birky’s touchdown pass, GCMS scored twice more in the third quarter, including a touchdown run of 63 yards by Trantina.
GCMS’ successful day
A day after their high school football season ended, the Falcons picked up not one, but two CIFL championships on Saturday in Gilman.
The GCMS senior team defeated PC White 18-6 for the title.
The Falcons overcame an early 6-0 deficit by scoring two touchdowns in the first half and one more in the second.
Prior to the juniors’ championship game, Watseka and Clifton battled it out for the Mighty Mites title.
The game last five overtimes before Watseka pulled away with a 36-34 victory.
Jeff Graham, PBL High School’s football head coach, said the game reminds him of one played on the same field in 2002.
The Panthers defeated Iroquois West 34-28 in triple-overtime game that improved their record to 4-0. Although the loss dropped them to 1-3, the Raiders went on to end the season with the same record — 5-5 — as PBL.
The game featured Brock Niebuhr on Iroquois West’s team and Jake LeClair on PBL’s sideline. They are both presently on PBL’s coaching staff, and, according to Graham, still talk about the game.