GCMS football advances to IHSA Class 2A semifinals with 42-7 win over El Paso-Gridley

GIBSON CITY — GCMS came back home and found its groove, as the Falcons cruised past El Paso-Gridley, 42-7, in Class 2A quarterfinal action.
The same recipe that got GCMS (12-0) into next week’s semifinal against Sterling Newman sent the Falcons to the locker room up 42-0 at halftime. GCMS scored through the air, on the ground, on special teams, and on defense in the lopsided affair.
“We knew we had the ability to score, and our defense has played outstanding all year, but I did not expect a 42-0 lead at halftime,” Falcons coach Mike Allen said. “But, our kids played well in all aspects of the game, and our coaches have done a great job preparing them.”
GCMS junior quarterback Nathan Garard connected with classmate Lane Short on a 24-yard touchdown early in the first quarter. Titans defensive backs were played 10-to-15 yards from the line of scrimmage, leaving shorter passes open. Short caught one of those passes and scampered past the goal line.
The Falcons defense forced a three-and-out and started on a short field at the EPG 26-yard-line. Senior Mitch McNutt needed only one try to score from that distance.
Much like the kickoff following the previous touchdown, GCMS special teams players were quick down the field. This time, in addition to bringing the EPG returner down deep inside their own territory, senior Jake Dunham forced a fumble that junior Austin Spiller returned 12 yards for a score.
“Jake’s one of those kids that you love to coach,” Allen said, “because he works as hard as he can, and his attitude is always awesome. Then, he has a great game like he did today. As a coach, that’s what you hope for in all of your players.”
After a few stalled drives, the GCMS special teams unit jumpstarted the team again. Brooks Schmitt returned a Titans punt to the EPG 34-yard-line. McNutt, as he had the last time the Falcons had a short field, needed only one touch to put six points on the board.
“In the playoffs, you get momentum, that’s a difference-maker,” Allen said. “We got that momentum early, and we didn’t let go of it.”
Not to be outdone, the GCMS defense also found its way into the scoring summary. Junior defensive end Bryce Barnes snatched a screen pass attempt out of the air with one hand and took it 25 yards to paydirt.
Falcons fans will not need to make travel plans for the semifinals either, as GCMS hosts Sterling Newman (12-0) at 2 p.m. on Saturday. McNutt, the Falcons leading rusher and scorer, said the matchup should create a great game.
“They’re the No. 1-team in state,” McNutt said. “They beat Orion 40-14, and Orion is a great team. It’s definitely going to be a battle. You’ve got to play your best.”
Allen said he has confidence in his coaches and players’ abilities to prepare for the highly-anticipated showdown.
“Our kids have watched a lot of film on Sterling Newman, on Instagram or whatever social media,” Allen said. “They’re good, and our kids know that. Our kids have confidence. They’re not cocky; they have confidence. 
“It’s not a selfish group. They want to win as a team. That is a good recipe for an outstanding season.”
In its quarterfinal win, Newman produced 428 rushing yards on 58 carries. Cade Gorzny ran for 202 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.
"We’re always focused during practice, but I think that in this upcoming week, the coaches are going to try to make us more focused," GCMS junior middle linebacker Austin Spiller said. "They know it’s going to be the biggest and toughest game we’ve had this season. Any little mistake in practice will become a bigger one because any big mistake in a game will be a big mistake."
GCMS 42, EPG 7
EPG 0 0 0 7 —7
GCMS 21 21 0 0 —42
Scoring Summary
GCMS — Short 24 pass from Garard (B. Freehill kick)
GCMS — McNutt 26 run (B. Freehill kick)
GCMS — Spiller 15 fumble return (B. Freehill kick)
GCMS — McNutt 34 run (B. Freehill kick)
GCMS — Trantina 56 run (B. Freehill kick)
GCMS — Barnes 25 interception return (B. Freehill kick)
EPG — Schlipf 12 pass from Landrus (Stoller kick)
RUSHING — EPG, Faulk 21-86. Totals 36-146. GCMS, McNutt 8-95, Trantina 6-93, Livingston 3-1, Harden 3-13, Jones 3-(-7), Kean 3-2, Garard 2-0, Schmitt 1-(-1), Chatman 1-5, Elliott 1-0. Totals 31-201.
PASSING — EPG, Landrus 4-14-60. GCMS, Garard 3-5-44.
RECEIVING — GCMS, Short 1-24, Barnes 1-17, Schmitt 1-3.
TACKLES — L. Freehill 9, Bleich 8, Dunham 6, Short 6, Barnes 5, Spiller 4
TACKLES FOR LOSS — 8 (Barnes 2, Dunham 2, L. Freehill 2, Bleich, Spiller).
SACKS — 3 (L. Freehill, Bleich, Dunham).
FORCED FUMBLES — 5 (Dunham 3, Spiller, L. Freehill).
FUMBLE RECOVERIES — 4 (Bleich 2, Trantina, Spiller).
INTERCEPTIONS — 2 (Schmitt, Barnes).


Categories (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports


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