IHSA Class 2A football playoffs: GCMS 24, West Carroll 6

SAVANNA — GCMS failed to score on its opening possession for the first time all season in Saturday’s second-round Class 2A playoff game at West Carroll. 
While it took longer than usual for Falcons offense to gain traction on a overcast and damp afternoon, GCMS escaped northwest Illinois with a 24-6 win to advance to the quarterfinals. 
“The big question was how would we face adversity? How would we do playing four quarters?” said Falcons coach Mike Allen, whose team averaged 47 points per game through 10 weeks. “I think we answered that. We got stronger as the game went on.”
That strength was displayed on the final two GCMS possessions. Leading by three, 9-6, the Falcons put together a 13-play, 53-yard drive that started in the third quarter and ended in the fourth. 
Nathan Garard, who completed nearly 80 percent of his passes during the season, was only 2-for-10 before that drive. But, his most important completion of the game came on fourth down in the red zone. With seven yards between the Falcons and a new set of downs, Garard found classmate Bryce Barnes for a nine-yard completion.
Barnes, who caught two passes in the game, caught the ball short of the line to gain but was able to muscle his way past the sticks. Two plays later, senior Mitch McNutt capped the drive capped with a two-yard touchdown run.
“It shows we can sustain drives,” Allen said. “When our defense is playing like they have all season and the way they played today in the second round of the playoffs, our offense has to make sure we come to play also.”
On West Carroll’s next offensive play, junior Josh Bleich tipped a pass, and linebacker Austin Spiller plucked the ball from the air to give GCMS a chance to extend its lead on a short field. The Falcons ground game continued to chip away at the Thunder defense. Again, McNutt put the exclamation point on the drive with a five-yard scoring run. 
McNutt, who averaged 12 yards per carry this season, ran the ball 26 times for 152 yards in the game. Junior fullback Jared Trantina added 67 yards on 16 carries. The biggest play of the game for GCMS came early in the first quarter when Ryland Holt broke a GCMS record with his ninth touchdown catch of the year.
In addition to facing its toughest opponent to date, GCMS had to overcome self-inflicted adversity to survive and advance. The Falcons, who have only been flagged 41 times through 10 games, were flagged 12 times on Saturday. 
“I like that this wasn’t a blowout,” said GCMS inside linebacker and captain Luke Freehill, who had nine tackles. “You need one or two of those a season. We haven’t had one yet, so it’s nice we finally got one to see how we play in that environment.”
The unfamiliar adversity faced Saturday, combined with the fact that next week’s quarterfinal opponent is fellow Heart of Illinois team El Paso-Gridley, makes this week of preparation different. 
Last season, the Titans defeated GCMS in the regular season before the Falcons got revenge in the postseason, knocking EPG out in the first round. 
“In practice, we’re going to be way more intense knowing it’s one of our rivals,” said senior captain Brooks Schmitt. 
Allen agreed: “It’s going to be a crazy week. They’re playing well. They’re going to be pumped up, going to be excited to come over and play us.”
GCMS 24, WC 6
GCMS 7 2 0 15 —24
WC 0 0 6 0 —6
Scoring Summary
GCMS — Holt 43 pass from Garard (B. Freehill kick)
GCMS — Safety
WC — Ka. Plattenberger 1 run (conversion failed)
GCMS — McNutt 2 run (B. Freehill kick)
GCMS — McNutt 5 run (Spiller pass from Garard)
RUSHING — GCMS, McNutt 26-152, Trantina 18-67, Livingston 2-12, Kean 1-3, Garard 6-(-6). Totals 53-229. WC, Totals 25-61. 
PASSING — GCMS, Garard 3-11-66-1-2. Ko. Plattenberger 3-13-52-0-3. 
RECEIVING — GCMS, Holt 1-43, Barnes 2-23. 
TACKLES — L. Freehill 15, Bleich 11, Barnes 10, Spiller 7, Trantina 6.
INTERCEPTIONS — 3 (Livingston, Spiller, Schmitt).
SACKS — 1 (Barnes).
TACKLES FOR LOSS — 3 (Barnes 2, Workman).


Categories (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports


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