By Steve Robinson | September 21, 2019 - 10:25 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – Two Central State Eight teams which find themselves near the bottom of the standings squared off at Hancock Stadium Friday night when University High hosted Jacksonville. Although the Pioneers managed to keep the contest close in the first half, the Crimsons scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to help pull away from the Pioneers, 31-19 before a crowd of roughly 800 fans.

Junior running back Chris Pulley’s 2 yard run for a touchdown gave Jacksonville (2-2 Central State Eight) the only score either side would get in the first quarter, capping an 8 play, 80 yard drive, followed by senior kicker Collin Brunstein’s extra point, putting the Crimsons up, 7-0, with 2:32 left in the quarter.

A 10-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Camdyn Barclay to junior wide receiver Savion Jackson would help U-High (0-4) pull within one, 7-6, with 8:12 remaining in the second quarter, but senior kicker Wyatt Berg’s extra point kick would sail away from the goal post, allowing Jacksonville to keep that slight lead. Jackson’s touchdown would cap off a 10 play, 65 yard march for the Pioneers toward that score.

But the score would not stay that close very long because junior running back Michael Walker would take the ensuing kickoff for the Crimsons at their own 35 and dash through Pioneers defenders for his team’s next score at the 7:58 mark in the quarter, followed by Brunstein’s extra point, putting Jacksonville up, 14-6.

U-High would pull within two, 14-12, when Barclay would connect with Jackson a second time on the night, this time from 14 yards out for a touchdown followed by an unsuccessful extra point try with 2:11 left toward halftime. A poor punt by Jacksonville gave U-High a short 40-yard field to work with toward that touchdown.

The Crimsons won the pre-game coin toss and opted to defer receiving the ball until the second half. During the half, they chewed up either time on the clock or yardage to keep the Pioneers at bay. Their first possession of the second half lasted 12 plays going 74 yards and ended with junior quarterback Ryan Maul’s 15 yard touchdown run followed by Brunstein’s extra point, pushing the Crimsons in front, 21-12 at the 7:58 mark in the third quarter.

U-High could have pulled within six had their ensuing possession worked out better than it did. After the ensuing kickoff, they began working with the ball from their own 45. Passes to Jackson and senior and senior wide receiver Spencer Parker helped get the Pioneers in range for a 35 yard field goal. But Berg would miss the field goal try. From their own 20, the Crimsons would march 80 yards on 10 plays, with Brunstein kicking a 33 yard field goal to double up the score on the Pioneers, 24-12, with 41 seconds left in the quarter.

The Pioneers would start their next series of downs from their own 20, but two plays later, Jacksonville senior defensive back Chase Vega would intercept a long Barclay pass giving the Crimsons possession at their own 44 yard line. Sixteen plays later, junior running back Gavin Roegge would score from a yard out followed by another Brunstein extra point, increasing Jacksonville’s advantage, 31-12 with 4:12 left in the contest.

A 6-yard touchdown run in the closing minute of the game was the last score U-High could muster, followed by Berg’s extra point.

“We’re a football team that runs between the tackles,” Crimsons head coach Mark Grounds explained, adding U-High defense didn’t allow for that in the first quarter forcing his team to make adjustments. Once that was done, he said, his team didn’t deviate from the alterations they made. “We saw U-High had adjusted their coverage and that was something we expected and practiced against. I saw they moved their linebackers up and there wasn’t much hesitation from them tonight.”

“I thought we played hard but the better team won,” explained U-High head coach John Johnson. “They were more physical than we were up front. Up front is where they beat us, in the trenches.” He said Jacksonville’s initial second half drive simultaneously used up the clock “while wearing us out.” He added his team doesn’t have a team that’s physically big enough to “sustain a football game right now.”

“We have to tackle better and we have to block better,” Johnson added. “And if we do that, maybe we can sneak out a win here because we pulled out trick plays tonight and some of them worked and some of them didn’t.”

Prior to the contest, students, parents, and teachers from Thomas Metcalf Elementary School, numbering around 175 people, gathered in Horton Field House for a pregame meal. Then prior to the game, Metcalf cheer team members joined U-High cheerleaders on the Hancock Stadium turf to help fans cheer on the home team. Like U-High, Metcalf School is a lab school overseen by Illinois State University.

The game was an emotional matter for the Crimsons because of a death in the team’s family. Grounds gave the game ball to Lona Jackson, mother of Crimsons defensive end Jaylon Jackson. Their son and brother, Alex, passed away earlier in the week.

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