FOOTBALL

'I love football': Richwoods couldn't rally, but this coach's son is keeping it positive

Dave Eminian
Journal Star

PEORIA — Cory Wysinger emerged from a Richwoods locker room where head coach James Ulrich's voice had boomed for more than 20 minutes after a 2022 season-opener ended in disappointment Friday with a 28-26 loss to Bloomington.

But the senior running back also had words to live by on his mind, from his father, ICC basketball coach Tony Wysinger.

"Energy. Effort. Attitude," said Wysinger, who averaged 8.8 yards per carry last season and picked up where he left off Friday.

The Knights followed those words in a first-half comeback to take a 20-14 lead to intermission. But the second half was a different story, as their pass defense broke down against two Bloomington quarterbacks, and their offense couldn't sustain drives.

"I've got to stay focused, stay calm, and we have to trust each other as teammates," Wysinger said. "Football, for me, I fell in love with it as a way to take out my anger without being angry, get a release, you know?"

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The 5-foot-11, 175-pound athlete has had football interest from Drake, Western Illinois and others. He's played basketball and run track at Richwoods, too. And of course, he's the son of a coach.

"It's been an interesting ride because he's played basketball at Christ Lutheran. Played JFL since sixth grade," said Tony Wysinger, who along with his basketball coaching career is also an accomplished bowler who has rolled 300 games more than 60 times. "I've just watched him grow. I never played football. But he asks good questions, watches video, and I'm just there to support him.

Richwoods running back Cory Wysinger (5) finds a seam through the Bloomington line during their game Friday, Aug. 26, 2022 at Endres Field.

"It still is unbelievable he's a senior. They were putting up the football signs with the seniors names on them at the stadium. I saw them out there and I saw his name and it really hit me.

"To see and watch him go from age 6-7 to now, all that type of stuff growing up."

Wysinger rattled off runs of 9, 12, 16, 9 and 19 on his first five carries of the game, four of them on Richwoods' opening drive to a 6-0 lead.

Facing fourth-and-1 at the Bloomington 24, quarterback Greg Burnside Jr. was wrapped up in the backfield, but lateraled off to Wysinger, who raced down the left sideline for a 16-yard run to the 8.

After a penalty, Wysinger took a pitch and turned the corner for 9 yards to the Bloomington 4. Burnside finished it from there on a keeper for a 6-0 lead with 2:17 left in the first quarter.

The tandem carried Richwoods to a 20-14 halftime lead. Wysinger had 10 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown — plus a 40-yard kickoff return. Burnside produced 15 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown and threw for 72 yards and a touchdown. He fumbled four times while handling the ball on the move, but recovered them all.

Richwoods quarterback Greg Burnside throws over Bloomington lineman Caiden Walls in the second half Friday, Aug. 26, 2022 at Endres Field.

Bloomington had a dual threat at quarterback — literally, two very different players. Stout QB Marcus Griffin ran 20 times for 82 yards and a TD, while sophomore QB AJ Codron came in and went 5-of-8 passing for 112 yards and a touchdown. His 34-yard TD lob to Garrick Dickerson — wide open amid dropped coverage — gave Bloomington a 14-6 lead with 7:12 left in the first half.

Burnside brought the Knights back on the ensuing drive when, flushed to the left, he cut up field and lobbed a pass to Mason Hawkins for 42 yards. Three plays later the QB added a 19-yard run to the Bloomington 2. Kaizon Davis finished from there with a 2-yard run to cut the deficit to 14-13 with 2:01 left.

The game turned on the following Bloomington possession when a bad shotgun snap to Griffin was recovered by Richwoods defensive lineman David Webster at the Bloomington 19 with 44.9 seconds left.

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Three plays later Jaivyn Moore dove in the back of the end zone to haul in Burnside's 19-yard pass for a 20-14 lead with 7.5 seconds left in the half.

But Bloomington turned it back in a third quarter in which it had just five plays yet scored twice.

Griffin heaved a 72-yard scoring pass to Garrick Dickerson (3 catches, 138 yards, two TDs) for a 21-20 lead with 5:05 left. A Richwoods punt followed, and then Bloomington rolled to a 28-20 lead on a 20-yard TD run by Robert Lanier with 1:51 left.The Knights battled back with a 1-yard run from Wysinger with 6:17 left in the fourth quarter, but his two-point run attempt was stopped and Richwoods fell short at 28-26.

"My dad always tells me to stay focused on what you are doing, the sport you are in, the game you are in, the moment," Wysinger said. "I tried basketball, tried bowling, have done track, a lot of things. They just didn't work for me.

"Football is what I love."

Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. He can be reached at 686-3206 or deminian@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.