After the Triad Knights threw their first touchdown pass since Nov. 1, 2014 on Saturday, don’t expect coach Paul Bassler to scrap his ground-hugging option running attack for a wide-open spread offense.
“It isn’t like I have something against throwing the ball,” said Bassler, whose team got its first TD pass in three seasons in the third quarter of a 35-7 Class 5A first-round playoff victory at Geneseo.
The 23-yard TD strike to Jake O’Dell was also the first TD pass of senior quarterback Tommy Bauer’s career and only his fourth completion all season on 12 attempts.
“Every game we say ‘This is the game we’re going to do it’ and we finally got it done,”’ said Bauer, whose team still ran for 407 yards in the win. “We didn’t do anything special to celebrate other than hug it out on the sidelines.”
Triad (7-3) will be at home in the second round for a 3 p.m. game Saturday against Morris (8-2).
Touchdown passes have been extremely rare at Triad. The last one came on Nov. 1, 2014, a 4-yard pass from Alex Crehan to Adam Nelson in the second quarter of a 21-14 first-round playoff loss to Taylorville.
Of Triad’s 476 plays from scrimmage this season, all but 12 have been running plays. Bauer’s passing stats are 3-for-12 for 40 yards with one TD and one interception.
“We like to run the ball and it’s just what we’re good at,” said Bauer, who leads the Knights with 1,028 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. “Growing up in Troy, you always run the option. I like the running the ball more anyway. I think if I went anywhere else I’d probably play running back.”
Fullback Tom Kraudel, who had 191 yards against Geneseo, has 1,023 yards and nine TDs while Trevor Nott (612 yards, six TDs) and Devin Towns (365 yards, two TDs) and the aggressive Triad offensive line also help fill the option gas tank. Nott added 120 yards on 13 carries against Geneseo.
“Everybody thinks I don’t want to throw the ball and that’s really not the case,” Bassler insisted. “If we needed to, it would be nice to lean on but we haven’t needed to. We’ve been able to run the ball on most of the teams we’ve played, including Althoff.
“We practice it. It isn’t something that we just completely shelve and don’t work on it all week long.”
This wasn’t a typical first-round win for Triad, which had to travel four hours just to get there.
The Knights won at the notoriously tough home field of the Geneseo Maple Leafs, who were making their state-record 40th playoff appearance and own four state titles and six runner-up finishes.
“I knew the history behind the Geneseo program,” Bassler said. “I didn’t know how hard it was to win up there for opponents. Finding that out after our win made it even more special for us, being up there and playing such a historic program and to play the way that we did.”
Along with Kraudel’s 191 yards, Triad generated 407 rushing yards and 16 first downs. Bauer said he was also impressed with the Knights’ defense, which got 14 tackles from Nathan Clark and nine from Ethan Salopek while holding Geneseo to one TD.
“They were lights out,” Bauer said. “They don’t get enough credit ever and they were really great. Everyone make s lot of plays and they keep us in a lot of games.”
Bassler felt execution and conditioning were also key factors.
“They had quite a few kids going both ways and it was an unusually warm day as well,” he said. “I think we just kind of wore them out.”
The top-ranked East St. Louis Flyers will take an 83-28 all-time postseason record into their second-round Class 7A home playoff game against Glenbard North (8-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Flyers, who knocked off Lincoln-Way West in the first round, lead the metro-east with 36 playoff appearances, seven state championships and three second-place finishes.
The metro-east team with the next highest football playoff success is Althoff. The Crusaders are 41-19 in 23 playoff appearances with three state championships and two second-place finishes.
Iowa coach visits Edwardsville
University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz made a visit to Edwardsville on Friday night. He got to see not only the Tigers’ 23-20 overtime win over Oak Park-River Forest, but also got a close look at one of his prized recruits, Edwardsville All-American defensive end A.J. Epenesa.
The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Epenesa, considered one of the top senior recruits in the country regardless of position, will sign with Iowa in February. Epenesa’s father, Eppy Epenesa, was also a defensive lineman at Iowa after beginning his career at Iowa Wesleyan.
Ground control by Mater Dei
Typically more of a passing team, Mater Dei ran the ball 41 times for 170 yards in a 14-7 Class 4A first-round playoff victory over rival Central.
It wasn’t an overwhelming rushing day, but coach Jim Stiebel said a stiff wind that would have been in the face of the Knights and quarterback Colin Schuetz was factored into the game plan.
“We’re kind of used to playing playoff games so that was the style,” Stiebel said. “We wanted to keep it on the ground ... it was windy and we knew we didn’t want to be throwing the ball up unless we had to. The running game worked to perfection like we wanted it to early and we stuck with it.”
Race to the finish
All but three points in Highland’s 10-6 Class 5A first-round win over Waterloo were scored in the final 4 minutes, 43 seconds.
The winning TD came on a 24-yard pass from Highland quarterback Garrett Marti to sophomore Brady Feldman with 24 seconds remaining.
Waterloo got two field goals from Tyson Roedl, including a 37-yarder with 1:13 remaining that had given his team the lead.
Former Edwardsville High football coach and athletic director Tim Dougherty guided the Galesburg Silver Streaks to the first state playoff win in school history on Saturday, a 35-21 victory over Chicago Hubbard.
Galesburg had been 0-8 in the football playoffs previously, including 0-2 under Dougherty. The Silver Streaks’ reward for the win? A second-round road game against five-time state champion Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin.
Illinois State Football Playoffs
Second Round Schedule
Saturday, Nov. 5
Edwardsville (9-1) at Oswego (10-0), 6 p.m.
Glenbard North (8-2) at East St. Louis (10-0), 1 p.m.
Highland (9-1) at Metamora (7-3), 2 p.m.
Morris (8-2) at Triad (7-3), 3 p.m.
Centralia (8-2) at Washington (8-2), 3 p.m.
Althoff (10-0) at Taylorville (8-2), 4 p.m.
Canton (8-2) at Columbia (10-0), 2 p.m.
Herrin (9-1) at Mater Dei (6-4), 1 p.m.