As the play-caller for Annawan-Wethersfield’s offensive game plan, coach Logan Willits assumed responsibility for quarterback Coltin Quagliano’s three interceptions in the first half of Saturday’s Class 1A quarterfinal game.
“The wind was a little bit of a factor on the one interception,” said Willits. “It kind of fluttered up there, then got returned for a touchdown. But, the play-caller on offense didn’t have his best day. But the kids were resilient.”
A-W won 20-13 over Morrison and advanced to this Saturday’s semifinal against Lena-Winslow.
A-W had more plays than Morrison (62 to 45) and more offensive yardage (331 to 201), and not surprisingly given those numbers, more first downs (17 to 10).
A-W also scored first: a 14-yard pass to receiver Julian Samuels at 8:34 of the first quarter.
Yet, A-W took a while to get its offense on track.
“I thought that our game plan went haywire in the first half,” Willits said. “We just weren’t executing what we really wanted to do, what got us here.”
A-W then leaned on running back Reece Gripp, who had 24 carries, to reset the offense. Both Gripp and Quagliano commended the guards and tackles on the offensive line for creating alleys Gripp could exploit for consistent gains. Gripp averaged 6 yards per carry and Quagliano 4.8 yards per carry.
“But we found our groove in the second half.” Willits said. And that opened up lanes against deep coverage, first to Brady Kelley and then to Samuels, both of whom had second-half touchdown catches.
The fourth-down connection with Samuels was a pass right at the goal-line pylon.
“I knew that once we started running the ball and establishing that, they were going to go with Julian on a one-on-one,” Willits said. “There’s very little few people that I wouldn’t take Julian one-on-one against. So we had got down in the red zone. Fourth down, we needed a play. I know it’s kind of flaky to say, big-time players make big-time plays. We have a big-time player at quarterback. Big-time player at receiver. That was incredible.”
Quagliano finished 11 of 21 with 116 yards passing.
A tall order
As far as defensive assignments go, Samuels had to step up — literally — and cover Morrison receiver T.C. Ottens.
“I had a 6-7 receiver,” said Samuels, who is a 6-footer. “That was going to be my matchup for the week. Gotta rise to the occasion, can’t be afraid. Me and my teammates, my brothers, we played our hearts out. These fans came out, cheered hard too.”
After filling the home grandstand and the three bleachers on the Morrison side, fans simply surrounded the field. Some brought lawn chairs, but most stood.
“It was a huge game for our community,” Willits said. “Morrison was awesome on their side. This is what high school football is supposed to mean at this time. We’re very thankful to our fans and Morrison’s for being this involved, for supporting their kids. And making sure everyone was into it.”
The same procedure will be in place for the semifinal game, which Wethersfield will also host. Gates will open at 11 a.m. for a 1 p.m. kickoff. Tickets are $8, a price set by the Illinois High School Association. There are no advance sales and no passes.
The full concession stand will open at 11 a.m.
He’s got leg
When it came to giving the ball a boot, Morrison quarterback Nathan Helms was up to the task.
Helms had five punts. He averaged 46 yards per punt. His longest with 59 yards. Samuels returned two of them for a total of 12 yards.