STERLING - Giveaways always sting a football team. When those occur in the playoffs, they can be downright painful.
Two Fieldcrest turnovers turned into 14 Newman points on Saturday afternoon, as the Comets defeated the Knights 21-7 in a two A semifinal at Roscoe Eades Stadium.
"We did not do enough against a good team," said Fieldcrest coach Derek Schneeman. "We turned the ball over too much. It was going to come down to who made the fewest mistakes. They capitalized on the turnovers."
Holding a 7-0 lead, Nate Ahlers intercepted a Cory Land pass and gave the Comets (12-1) the ball at their own 44 with four minutes and four and 46 seconds in the second quarter. One play later, Newman found the end zone courtesy of a 54-yard pass from Jacob Ackman to tight end Andrew Wilson. Ahlers' point after made it 14-0.
Andrew Velasquez picked off a Land throw on the first Fieldcrest (12-1) possession of the second half. A nine-play, 55-yard drive was capped off by Velasquez's 14-yard run to the house. The kick from Ahlers gave the Comets a 21-0 lead with 4:02 remaining in the third quarter.
"The first (interception) we tried a double move and the kid (Ahlers) made a great play," recalled Schneeman. "The second one, they were in a cover two. He (Velasquez) did a good job extending his arms.
"We felt like we did not have enough opportunities early to show what we could do offensively. We felt like we moved the ball. Unfortunately, we made too many mistakes. You have that this deep in the playoffs...we do not execute when we turn the ball over, you get undisciplined defensively at times and make mistakes."
From the Newman sideline, a major priority was to keep tabs on Fieldcrest's Jaxon Cusac-McKay.
"We talked all week we had to know where 23 (Cusac-McKay) was. He's their playmaker," Comets' coach Brandon Kreczmer detailed. "That's a credit to our kids knowing the game plan and sticking to it."
The junior had 10 rushes for 40 yards and recorded five catches for 39 yards. He got the Knights on the board with a TD run from a yard out with 6:55 left in the game. Jacob Joyal's kick made it 21-7.
Playing catch up is never easy, especially against a fundamentally sound opponent particularly with the ball control wishbone attack Newman employs.
"It's tough when you get behind three scores to a team like that," explained Schneeman. "You do not want to be behind the eight ball against Newman."
Velasquez finished with 59 yards on 10 carries, while Connor McBride followed with 12 rushes for 52 yards. The Comets ended up with 254 yards of total offense.
Land led Fieldcrest with 66 yards rushing on 13 attempts. The guests were held to a season-low 227 yards of total offense.
Despite the setback, the Knights can look back on what they accomplished. An undefeated regular season, winning the program's first ever division title and tying the single season standard of 12 wins with the 2014 team.
"I could not be more proud of the senior class. They did it the right way," said Schneeman. "It was the most fun we've had because of the group of guys we had. They did everything we asked of them even going back to the summer. Today is tough, but they'll look back and remember this season fondly."
1 2 3 4
Fieldcrest 0 0 0 7 = 7
Sterling Newman 0 14 7 0 = 21
SN: Velasquez 1 run (Ahlers kick)
You have free articles remaining.
SN: Wilson 56 pass from Ackman (Ahlers kick)
SN: Velasquez 14 run (Ahlers kick)
F: Cusac-McKay 1 run (Jacob Joyal kick)
First downs 13 12
Total Yards 227 254
By Rushing 157 166
By Passing 70 88
Comp-Att-Int 9-20-2 2-3-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
QB sacks-Yards lost 0-0 0-0
Punts-Average 1-23 1-41
Penalties-Yards 5-36 3-32
Time of Possession 28:38 19:32
RUSHING (carries-yards) F: Cory Land 13-66, Kenton Castrejon 13-41, Cusac-McKay 10-40, Matt Lorton 4-10, SN: Velasquez 10-59, Connor McBride 12-52, Kye O’Brien 8-44, Ackman 7-11
PASSING (completions-attempts-interceptions-yards) F: Land 8-19-2-66, M. Lorton 1-1-0-4, SN: Ackman 2-3-0-88
RECEIVING (catches-yards) F: Cusac-McKay 5-39, Tisen Covington 2-16, Henry Lorton 1-15, Castrejon 1-0, SN: Wilson 2-88
PUNTING (attempts-yards-average) F: Land 1-23-23, SN: Ackman 1-41-41
Interceptions SN 2 (Ahlers, Velasquez)
Fumble recoveries F 1 (Travis Sunken)
Notes: Fieldcrest lineman Mason Faulk was chosen to the two A all-state team by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association (IHSFCA). The Comets were represented by McBride (secondary) and guard Riley Wescott. Newman faces Nashville (12-1) in Friday's 1 p.m. title game from Huskie Stadium on the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb. The Comets were four of seven on third down conversions, while the Knights were four of 13. The loss ended the Heart of Illinois Conference's stranglehold on the two A title. Tri-Valley won it in 2015 followed by Deer Creek-Mackinaw ('16) and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley ('17 and '18).