SAVANNA — Clinging to a 9-6 lead in the third quarter, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School's football team kept it simple Saturday in a Class 2A second-round playoff game against West Carroll.
The Falcons went with what Coach Mike Allen called "power football," featuring running backs Mitchell McNutt and Jared Trantina and solid play from the offensive line.
The result was a 13-play, 53-yard drive that ate up the rest of the third quarter and nearly half of the fourth quarter, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by McNutt. The lead was up to 16-6 and GCMS went on to a hard-earned 24-6 victory.
"We just ran up the middle and kicked out the end a few times," Allen said. "Our offensive line stepped up and our defense played outstanding all day. Coach (Chad) Augspurger had them ready to go.
"They (West Carroll) were tough. They were physical and fast and it was a great ballgame."
The Falcons (11-0), a No. 2 seed and ranked second in the Class 2A state poll, advanced to a home game at 2 p.m. next Saturday against Heart of Illinois Conference rival El Paso-Gridley (7-4).
GCMS defeated the Titans, 45-18, on Sept. 8 at El Paso, but EPG has upset Rockridge and Knoxville in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
"They're playing some great football right now," Allen said. "What a way to represent the HOI Conference."
Allen said a key play on Saturday's pivotal drive was a pass from Nathan Garard to Bryce Barnes. The fourth-down completion gave the Falcons a first down on the 3-yard line, setting up McNutt's TD run two plays later.
"It was fourth and about eight (yards to go). We called our "Purdue" play and Nathan got it to Bryce," Allen said. "Bryce caught it about two yards from the first down and he was able to get there. That was a big play for us. Otherwise who knows what would have happened."
McNutt finished with 152 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, while Trantina added 67 yards in 18 attempts. Garard was 3 of 11 passing for 66 yards, including a 43-yard TD pass to Ryland Holt.
Holt set a school record on the play with his ninth TD catch of the year.
Josh Bleich and Luke Freehill led the GCMS defense with nine tackles each. The Falcons also received interceptions from Austin Spiller, Brooks Schmitt and Lance Livingston.