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Decatur St. Teresa's Jacardia Wright (9) and Austin Fitzpatrick celebrate after a touchdown Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, at Athens during a Class 2A second-round game. Wright and St. Teresa host Tri-Valley at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Decatur.

Tri-Valley High School's football team held a one-point lead late in the first half of its season opener. Then Jacardia Wright broke loose.

Wright's 62-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds left gave Decatur St. Teresa a lead it didn't relinquish as the Bulldogs earned a 27-14 victory over the Vikings.

Tri-Valley knows it will have to contain Wright on Saturday if it wants its storybook playoff run to continue. The 12th-seeded Vikings (7-4) take on No. 1 St. Teresa (11-0) in a Class 2A quarterfinal at 2:30 p.m. in Decatur.

"He's a pretty special kid," said Tri-Valley coach Josh Roop.

Wright has rushed for 2,196 yards and 43 touchdowns this season. That brings his career totals to 8,408 yards, third all-time in state history, with his 128 rushing TDs ranking No. 2.

However, Tri-Valley "limited" Wright to 161 yards on 21 carries in the opener, with that lone TD. The Vikings also played St. Teresa in last year's opener, losing 25-20.

"These guys aren't going to be scared of them," said Roop. "They're a lot to handle, but they (the Vikings) should be ready to play because they're familiar and know what they're getting into."

Tri-Valley is brimming with confidence. The Vikings, who won the Class 2A state title in 2015, came into the playoffs with a modest 5-4 record, but have upset No. 5 seed Nashville (14-7) and No. 4 Pana (35-31).

"We have to keep hold of the ball and our defense has to lock down and tackle and make sure our offense does what it does," said Tri-Valley's Zach Woodring.

Woodring leads Tri-Valley's ground attack with 1,199 yards and 10 TDs, while Hunter Gawlik adds 957 yards. Quarterback Jake Reeser has completed 35 of 79 attempts for 447 yards and eight TDs.

Roop is aware of Saturday's possible wintry weather forecast.

"I really feel our offense was built for November with the style we play," said Roop. "We focus on playing defense and controlling the line of scrimmage and taking care of the ball at this time of year.

"When you do that, you get games where it's windy or cold. I told the guys we played in the snow in 2015 in the (Class 2A) state championship game, so let it snow."

When St. Teresa quarterback Jack Hogan isn't handing off the ball to Wright, he's proven to be an effective thrower. Hogan is 59 of 94 for 1,148 yards with 15 TDs.

The fourth-ranked Bulldogs haven't been challenged in their first two playoff victories, easily dispatching No. 16 Staunton (45-0) and No. 9 Athens (48-7). Actually, St. Teresa has breezed through the season after beating Tri-Valley in the opener, with its second closest margin of victory being 28 points.

That doesn't concern the Vikings.

"When we started to go into the playoffs the first thing we heard from the coaching staff was try and focus on ourselves and try and fix things we can fix, so we can control and give effort and results will come," said Reeser.

"It's more thinking about what we can do instead of focusing so much on the other team because no matter who we line up against we want to play as hard as we can."

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Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Benson



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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