Three years after taking over a Mascoutah football program with players he says were not physically strong enough to compete at a high level, coach Josh Lee has led the Indians into the playoffs.
Junior running back Devin Wills set the tone with a pair of touchdowns in the opening eight minutes and the Indians never looked back as they clinched their first IHSA playoff berth since 2009 on Friday with a 59-2 win over Centralia.
Ranked fifth in the St. Louis area with 1,244 yards entering play Friday, Wills rambled 44 yards for a touchdown in the opening minute then added a two-yard run for a score six minutes later as the Indians took control of the game early.
Defensive end Isaac Beck and defensive back Christian Trotter added interception returns for touchdowns and Malik Green returned a blocked punt 17 yards for a score within a six-minute span in the second quarter. The Indians led 45-0 by halftime and, for all intents and purposes, had clinched that long-awaited playoff berth.
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“I’m going to get a little emotional here,’’ Lee said after the game. “When we got here three years ago we told these kids, some of them who were here and have gone through some tough times, that if they believed in us and what we wanted them to do, and if they bought into the program that this could happen.
“I’m just very happy for these kids and this football program.’’
With the win, Mascoutah improves to 6-3 and will await the announcement of its first round Class 5A playoff opponent which will come on Saturday when the Illinois High School Association announces its playoff field and first round pairings in all eight classes.
Indians quarterback Jeff Getchell added a 13-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and the defense, led by Green and senior lineman Bobby Moore kept the Orphans offense silent for much of the night.
Centralia, which ends its season at 1-8, managed only three first downs all night, two of which came on Mascoutah penalties.
“Offense, defense, special teams, we all came to play tonight. It’s been a long time since Mascoutah had made the playoffs and we were not going to be denied tonight,’’ Getchell said. “The offensive and defensive lines were both tremendous tonight.
“The difference between this year and the last couple is that this team stayed together, no matter what happened or if things went good or bad. We played as a team. I’m just very proud of all these guys. Now we get a chance to be in the playoffs and we’re going to continue to give it everything we have.’’
If Mascoutah is to advance it will be with Wills as the main offensive weapon With the season on the line on Friday, Lee made sure his top running back got touches early.
Wills carried the football on eight of the Indians first 10 plays.
“The last weeks we had maybe gotten away from that a little bit,’’ Lee said. “Tonight we wanted to have the ball in his (Wills) hands as much as possible. The defense came up with plays and our special teams, which is something we’ve really worked to improve, stepped up as well.’’