This year’s high school football season has produced many surprises…
- Defending Class 5A champion, Peoria High, lost in the first round of the playoffs.
- A year after its best season ever (reached state semifinals), Canton was ousted in round one.
- After winning two games all of last year, Richwoods won two, road playoff games.
- The area leader in high school football playoff wins (with 64), Metamora, started 0-4 and missed the playoffs entirely.
- Notre Dame rode a 5-game winning streak into this year’s playoffs, only to lose in round one.
- Defending Class 2A champion, Dee Mack, got shutout, 42-0, in the first round of the playoffs.
- Morton returned to the playoffs after a six-year hiatus and won a first round game on the road.
- Dunlap is still unbeaten entering week 13.
- A Mid Illini Conference rematch will determine a state 5A finalist.
Yes, this season didn’t roll out as expected. And now, Saturday at 3 pm, it’s the Mid Illini rivals, Dunlap and Washington, battling in the IHSA, Class 5A semifinals at Babcook Field on the Red Zone Game of the Week presented by INB. The winner earns the right to represent the 309 and play for the state championship the following Saturday on Thanksgiving weekend at Northern Illinois University against the Chicago Phillips-Sterling semifinal winner. Dunlap beat Washington, 28-14, back in week 6, the de facto MI conference championship game.
Last weekend, Washington broke open a tight, 14-14, 4th-quarter deadlock to beat Richwoods, 35-21, behind its always good defense and three touchdown runs by Josh Schellenberg. A special teams kickoff fumble recovery by fullback Brendan Durr and interception by Cole Ludolph keyed the Panthers’ decisive fourth-quarter run in which they scored three times. It’s not a surprise that Washington is still playing football, but the Panthers play a lot of juniors and may have arrived a year early, not good news for conference foes next season.
Dunlap, thought by many to have the tougher second and third-round playoff draws, continued its perfect season with a 24-6 win at home over Country Club Hills Hillcrest. The Eagles D picked off four passes and got three sacks from their area-best unit.
Dunlap is playing in its first-ever state football semifinal game and first road playoff game this fall, while Washington is playing in its fourth semifinal, the last being the loss at Sacred Heart Griffin (also heard on the Red Zone Game of the Week) four years ago, just a week after the tornado struck Washington. The rematch will pit the area’s top two defenses facing off against offenses that are generally dynamic, except when playing each other.
Tune in Saturday afternoon at 2:30 for the pregame show, featuring interviews by both head coaches, Brett Cazalet and Darrell Crouch. Former Illini lineman Tony Johnson, Tom Meredith, Jason Glick and I will bring you all the details of our area’s Game of the Year, on the Red Zone Game of the Week, presented by Illinois National Bank, on Peoria’s home for classic rock and football, 95.5, GLO.