Dunlap High School’s Football team ended its historic season with a 33-7 loss to two-time state champion, Chicago Phillips, in the Class 5A IHSA state championship game on Saturday at Northern Illinois University.
But if you weren’t at the game or listening on the Red Zone Game of the Week on 95.5, GLO, you’d see that score and think it was a blowout. It was not.
I wrote last week that Dunlap was clearly the underdog in this matchup of 13-0 unbeatens, due to Phillips’ seven Division 1 players and its gaudy all-classes national rank of 88. Phillips was loaded and deserved to win, but Dunlap fought hard and represented the 309 well despite some tough breaks.
The first of them happened near the end of Dunlap’s opening 60-yard drive against the heralded, cover 0, pressure defense of Phillips. Late in the possession, Dunlap’s starting quarterback, Myles Burke, took a hit from the Wildcats all state linebacker Terrance Taylor. Burke’s shoulder was damaged and he didn’t return after that drive.
Dunlap’s all area defensive lineman Ryan Erickson came in to play quarterback, having seen only a handful of offensive snaps this season and not practicing at the position lately. Early on, he took a high snap and tried to hand off to 2,100 yard running back, Luke Bennyhoff, but the handoff failed and Phillips’ other all stater, Craig Elmore, scooped and scored from 44 yards out.
The Eagles got a late Bennyhoff interception before the half, and that momentum carried into the third quarter, where Dunlap scored the quarter’s only TD, a 20-yard pass from Erickson to Josiah Miamen. Midway through the 4th quarter, Dunlap was still in the game, trailing 21-7, but Phillips blocked a punt from Isaac Guyton. The ball got kicked towards the goal line and the Wildcats took possession at the Dunlap 2 yard line, creating an easy score to put the game away.
Dunlap won the time of possession stat and gained just two first downs less than the eventual state champs from the Chicago Public School League. On the other hand, Dunlap gained a minus -3 yards rushing total and allowed Phillips to convert 6 of 13 third down plays, many of them being third and long.
The Dunlap players shed some tears afterward, understandably so. But they’re hopefully holding their heads up high now. Prior to this season, the once, tiny, small school that played for years in the equally tiny, Blackhawk Conference enjoyed little playoff success.
Dunlap’s playoff record was 6-25 all-time, coming into this fall’s tremendous run. The Eagles last playoff win was in 2008, by a point, over the now defunct Woodruff Warriors. After that, Dunlap lost in the first round five straight times, so there was skepticism outside the program whether this 2017 team would go on a deep playoff run, though they finished strong at the end of the 2016 season. This Dunlap team became only the second one to reach the quarterfinals, and the first to reach the semi’s and finals, not to mention rack up a school record 13 victories!
Congrats to the players, coaches, families and fans, of whom you made many more this season. It was a great 2017 Red Zone season that also featured the first all Mid Illini state semifinal game the week before and returns to glory for Richwoods and Morton’s programs, among others.
Thanks to all our Red Zone sponsors, especially presenting sponsor Illinois National Bank, plus: Peoria Starcrest Cleaners and Carlson’s Custom Jewelers, longtime Red Zone sponsors. Heartland Apartments, Naturally Yours Grocery, attorney Donald R Jackson, Branded Country Wear and Russell’s Cycling and Fitness did their part to keep high school football alive on the radio in central Illinois.
And, one last thanks to my Red Zone team: former Illini lineman and Peoria Pirates assistant coach Tony Johnson, who returned to provide great insight and knowledge to each broadcast, not to mention his passion. The voice of Galesburg, Tom Meredith, handled the secondary play by play games, then color, then sideline reporting roles skillfully again this season. Tyler Busch returned with his growing statistics array and Jason Glick, back in the studio, chased down scores while seamlessly producing each week’s game for his 7th season. GLO on air and IT guy, Tim Ylinen, helped with all engineering needs and emergencies. And thanks to the Peoria Journal Star’s Aaron Ferguson for his fine, season-long, digging and coverage.
We look forward to next year’s 8th season of unprecedented high school football radio coverage on the Red Zone Game of the Week, presented by INB, on Peoria’s home for classic rock and football, 95.5, GLO.