GIBSON CITY — In a battle of unbeatens, visiting Arcola High School edged Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, 14-13, Saturday in a Class 1A football playoff quarterfinal game.
The Purple Riders (12-0) advanced to play LeRoy in the semifinals at 2 p.m. next Saturday, while the Falcons (11-1) finished tied for the school record for wins in a season.
Arcola took advantage of good field position and scored the game’s first two touchdowns to take an early 14-0 lead.
Wyatt Fishel struck paydirt on a 1-yard run with 1:57 left in the first quarter, then quarterback Clayton Strader’s 1-yard dive put the Riders up by two touchdowns just three seconds into the second quarter.
A Falcon fumble put Arcola in the red zone for the second Rider touchdown.
GCMS’ Nick Meunier broke loose for a 63-yard touchdown run on the following drive to make it 14-7.
After a Zach Johnson interception, Falcon quarterback Keegan Allen found tight end James Fairfield in the end zone on a diving 18-yard touchdown catch.
The extra point kick was blocked, and Arcola retained a 14-13 lead with 5:58 left in the second quarter.
Both teams had other opportunities to score, but wound up shut out for the final two and a half quarters.
Arcola intercepted a pass in the end zone midway through the third quarter, and GCMS stopped two fourth-quarter Arcola drives on downs in the red zone.
Meunier caught a long pass near midfield, and GCMS stopped the clock with 20 seconds left.
A few plays later, the Riders stopped GCMS on a last-second hook-and-ladder scoring attempt to seal the win.
“Gentlemen. Class acts. Leaders,” GCMS head coach Mike Allen said of his seniors and their amazing season. “Just an incredible group of young men. What they’ve done for our program, and what they’ve shown the younger kids how to be.
"Our program is in great shape because of the leadership they’ve shown this year and the work ethic and the unselfishness. You don’t get that too often. Hopefully, they’ll all come back and live in our community because our community will be better because of them.”