GIBSON CITY - As one fan put it, GCMS lost the coin toss, then won everything after that.
In what was supposed to be the game of the year between two undefeated rivals, GCMS wound up completely dominating a 51-0 homecoming win over PBL to move to 5-0 on the season.
And from the beginning, this game belonged to the Falcons.
On their first drive, GCMS pounded away with six straight runs, then called a play action pass that ended with senior James Fairfield making an Odell Beckham-like one-handed grab in the end zone to start the scoring madness.
The next completed GCMS pass was a 25-yard touchdown on fourth and 11 that bounced off a defender and landed in the hands of Nick Meunier, which quickly put the Falcons up 14-0.
Tucker Cribbett intercepted a pass on PBL’s ensuing drive and took it back 54-yards for the score and 21-0 first quarter GCMS lead.
At this point it was clear the seven area writers who picked PBL to win just might regret choosing them a second, or third, straight year.
Soon after, the Falcons put any thought of a comeback to rest when Nick Meunier punched in two straight touchdown runs to make it 35-0 GCMS before halftime.
The second of those scores was set up when the Falcons once again went for it on fourth and 13 to complete a pass to Tucker Cribbett that made it first and goal GCMS.
Key-Shawn Girkin found the end zone after a Meunier interception put them in good field position to put the game at 42-0 and start a running clock during a game that most expected to be by a touchdown at best.
Sam Baillie blocked a punt and forced a safety; then sophomore Luke Freehill scored for the third straight week on a 76-yard touchdown run despite battling a sprained ankle all week.
When asked about the decision to go for it on fourth down multiple times, Falcon Coach Mike Allen credited field position and the fact they have a 6- foot, 4-inch’ athletic tight end.
“We felt we could throw the ball up to James and take advantage of his height,” Allen said. “He’s 6’4’’, and we tried taking advantage of that, and it worked out for us. That was an amazing catch. Teams come flying up so fast (when we run), they’re not even paying attention to those receivers.”
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Defense controls game
While the scoring was plentiful on the GCMS side, the real story was the Falcon defense.
The squad allowed a mere 53 total yards and two first downs to a PBL crew that regularly stacks up a high number of yards and points.
“Just an amazing effort,” Falcon defensive coordinator Chad Augspurger said of his defense. “They were prepared. They listened. They took in what the game plan was going to be, and they just executed it flawlessly. I’m so proud of them and the way they prepared themselves throughout the week and came out focused. It was a great thing to watch.”
GCMS prepped for the Panthers’ no-huddle offense all week in hopes of shutting down the two-headed run game of Matt Poll and Paul Bingham.
But in turn, it was PBL’s strong passing game that wound up being most absent from this contest.
“They put pressure on Copely all night,” Allen said. “They didn’t give him time to throw. And that was the difference in the game.”
“We have the best defensive backs in the conference,” Augspurger added. “Nobody passes on us. And we had a great pass rush from our front line, our front four guys. (PBL) is much bigger than us and so much more athletic. But we were in position for every play, and (our guys) executed.”
GCMS hasn’t allowed a single point during the first quarter this season, outscoring their opponents 128-0 in the opening quarter through five games.
Quarterback Keegan Allen completed four of his five passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. The completions went for 17, 25, 25 and 29 yards in key moments that either scored or set up a score.
Meunier finished with 14 carries for 120 yards.