Sangamon Valley/Tri-City may have brought the Storm to Nashville, but it was the Hornets that delivered the thunder and lightning.
Nashville opened its Class 2A playoff game with 32 unanswered points to blow away the Storm 45-18 Saturday afternoon.
“That’s by far the best quarter of football we’ve had on both sides of the ball all year,” said Hornet coach Tim Kuhn. “We were just playing downhill there for a while.
“I think right now we are playing our best football of the season.”
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It was an overwhelmingly dominant 15 minutes of football for Nashville to start the game.
The Hornets took the opening drive and marched 60 yards down the field on 11 plays that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Royce Newman on fourth down.
Nashville then got an interception from linebacker Nick Brown that was returned to the Storm 15 yard line. Again on fourth down, Hunter Schultze scored on a 6 yard run to make it 14-0 midway through the quarter.
Things would only get worse for Sangamon Valley.
Another interception, this time by Nick Paszkiewicz, put Nashville at the Storm 32.
Quarterback Andrew Kash would hit Newman over the middle for a 32-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage as it was 20-0 Nashville just a minute-and-a-half later.
Sangamon Valley punted on its next drive, as the Hornets drove 75 yards on just eight plays to open the second quarter with a 1-yard TD run from Schultze to make it 26-0.
And on the Storm’s first play of its next series, quarterback Miles Hutchins fumbled and Newman recovered at the 30.
On the first play Kash hooked up with Newman again, this time for 30 yards down the left sideline, as Nashville had a 32-0 lead with 10:47 still to play in the first half.
“We got the shovel out and really dug ourselves a deep hole,” Sangamon Valley coach Michael Lee said. “I don’t know if it was nerves or what because I’ve got a junior-senior team, but we had the interception and things kind of spiraled from there.”
A Nashville fumble at their own 26 led to a score for Sangamon Valley just before halftime.
The Storm took the opening drive of the second half 72 yards in seven plays to make it 32-12, and after recovering an on-side kick, Sangamon Valley scored again to cut the gap to 32-18 midway through the third quarter.
But the Hornets squashed all hopes of a comeback with a dominant three-play drive. Grant Reed had a run of 28 yards, Schultze followed with a 31 yard gain, and Jaris Dalman drove the ball right up the middle for an 8 yard touchdown run less than a minute later as Nashville led 38-18.
“They are 9-1 and we knew they weren’t going to get on the bus at halftime,” said Kuhn. “We knew coming out in the second half whatever lead we had was not safe. They are so explosive we knew they were going to score points.
“They got a couple of scores, but we were able to settle down and get the momentum back.”
Sangamon Valley drove the ball down to the Nashville 9 where they faced fourth down, but Hutchins was sacked by Chase Stanowski to force the Storm to turn the ball over on downs.
Nashville capped the scoring with a nine play, 80 yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Schultze with 8:54 left in the game.
Schultze led the Hornets with 111 yards rushing on 16 carries and three touchdowns. The senior, who also caught two passes for 33 yards, is just 16 yards shy of becoming Nashville’s all-time leader for total offense.
“He’s a warrior, and how he goes is how we go,” Kuhn said. “He contributes so much on both sides of the ball, he is just a great athlete.
“He is 170 pounds of heart.”
Nashville had 426 yards of total offense as Kash was 6-10 passing for 113 yards. Unlike last week, the Hornets never attempted a pass in the second half. Reed added 77 yards on 10 carries, Kyle Schnitker carried the ball nine times for 59 yards, as Dalman added 41 yards on six carries.
“They got that darn power-seep game going and it’s tough to stop,” said Lee. “It may look like they are just pitching the ball, but the guys they got blocking are impressive.
“They’ve got a good team and credit to them they played well today.”
The Hornets, now 8-3, will host Athens next weekend. Athens, the 15th seed, knocked off Maroa-Forsyth 34-27.