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LOCAL FOOTBALL

WRAPPING UP - Joel Baer of Eureka prepares to make a tackle in the Aug. 30 opener. The Hornets' defense held Le Roy in check in a 28-0 victory (Provided photo).

EUREKA – While the running attack struggled, the hosts’ aerial attack was in quality form. So was the defense. That combination led the Eureka football team to a 28-0 shutout of Le Roy in the Aug. 30 opener and Heart of Illinois Conference crossover at McCollum Field.

While the Hornets managed just 47 yards on the ground, they did serious damage through the air. Eureka unveiled a new four-receiver set.

“We’re hopeful. We trust the kids with what we have,” Hornets’ coach Jason Bachman said. “We planned to throw it a lot more. The receiving corp did a great job of catching the ball and keeping drives alive.”

Quarterback Matt Martin ended up with 262 yards and four touchdowns. His second of three scores to Aden Sears from 45 yards out gave the hosts momentum going to the locker room at halftime with a 14-0 margin.

This was after Le Roy failed to convert and fourth-and-seven at midfield. The TD to Sears came on a fourth-and-10.

“It was huge,” commented Bachman of the TD before the break. “They (Le Roy) had a lot of fire. They’re a tough group of kids. They did everything they could to stay in it.”

Martin tossed two more TDs in the final period, one to Sears from 29 yards and the other to Reuben Roberts from 15. Sears finished with six receptions for 133 yards, while Roberts grabbed five for 92.

The Roberts TD was set up by a fumble recovery from Coleton Janssen that gave Eureka a short field at the Panthers’ 20.

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The hosts’ defense came up big in the red zone as they forced a three-and-out and also a turnover, as Hunter Gladson intercepted a pass near the Le Roy 5.

“They did step up in the red zone,” Bachman said. “That three-yard and a cloud of dust philosophy is what they (Le Roy) do. I thought they (the defense) rallied together.”

Martin, who had just a 51-percent completion rate last season, was accurate on 16 of 22 (nearly 73 percent) on Friday. His seasonal number should be well above his 2018 percentage.

“We’re hoping,” commented Bachman. “It needs to be there if we’re going to be as good as we think we can be. He was a young quarterback (last year). He was a sophomore and we were asking a lot from him. He has evolved as a quarterback. He trusts his receivers. Every time he throws it, he’s confident someone will catch it.”

The Panthers were held to 148 yards of total offense. Aidan Eddy was their leading rusher with 13 carries for 45 yards.

The one lowlight for the Hornets was being whistled 11 times for 108 yards with eight of those penalties occurring in the opening half.

“I cannot really say what I told them,” said Bachman with regards to his halftime message, “We understood what we had to do in the second half. We have to clean up the penalties. That’s unacceptable for a veteran team.”

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