PEORIA — Bloomington High School's football team had a rough start Friday night against Peoria High, falling behind 20-0 at Peoria Stadium.
The Purple Raiders didn't let that deter them, rallying for a 35-34 halftime lead and going on to a 51-40 Big 12 Conference victory.
The win clinched the first playoff berth since 2013 for BHS, which improved to 6-2 overall and 5-2 in the conference.
The Raiders responded quickly to the 20-0 deficit when Drew Crooks returned a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown.
Crooks then caught a 34-yard TD pass from Griffin Moore before Moore scored on an 11-yard run.
An 11-yard scoring pass from Moore to Diontay Griffin and a short TD run by Holden Snyder helped the Raiders rally for the halftime lead.
Another Moore-to-Crooks TD pass in the third quarter made it 43-34 for the Raiders, but Peoria High crept to within 43-41 in the fourth quarter.
The Lions tried an onside kick, but BHS' Jante Hatfield returned it for a touchdown and the Raiders held on under first-year coach Scott Godfrey.
"For a team that's not really been in this situation with a playoff atmosphere, to get down 20-0 and battle back was big-time," Godfrey said.
Godfrey said Crooks' kickoff return helped spark the Raiders.
"He was playing well on defense and offense and then me made that special teams play," Godfrey said. "He was keeping us in it early and everybody just rallied behind that."
BHS wraps up the regular season next Friday at home vs. Champaign Centennial.
"They (the players) hit their goal (the playoffs), and like I've said all along, this is where Bloomington should be every year," Godfrey said. "We're not done. We've done a good job of taking it a week at a time.
"Our goal now is to get to seven wins and have a chance at a home playoff game."
Playoff pairings will be released by the Illinois High School Association on Oct. 20.