How Peoria High slowed down one of the state's fastest high school football teams

Adam Duvall
Journal Star

PEORIA — Landon Newby-Holesome put new meaning behind rumblin’, bumblin' and stumblin’.

The Peoria High senior caught a swing pass from his quarterback Tino Gist, then proceeded to race down the left sideline for a 76-yard touchdown amidst an 18-point second quarter during a 48-21 Class 5A second-round playoff victory over Kankakee on Friday night.

Did we mention that Newby-Holesome is a 6-foot, 231-pound fullback?

“Most people don’t know I got speed,” the senior said with a smile. “I’m not just no big bowling ball. I can move. … We knew (that play) was going to pop. We didn’t know how big it was going to pop, and I took it to the crib.”

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Peoria High (10-1) advanced to the quarterfinals and now awaits the winner of Highland (9-1) and Mascoutah (7-3), which meet at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Newby-Holesome is normally clearing the way for running back Malachi Washington, while adding in a carry or two on short-yardage situations. And it’s not like he didn’t do that in Peoria High’s first second-round win since 2016; Washington ran for 204 yards and four touchdowns.

“That’s my favorite thing to do,” Newby-Holesome said of clearing the way for his classmate. “I’m a hard-nosed football player. I like playing old style, back-in-the-day style. I just go run into somebody, put them on their butt, keep on going.”

But this game on the beat-up Peoria Stadium grass, Newby-Holesome showed what he does on both sides of the ball.

Peoria High's Kenny Rutherford (10) wraps up Kankakee's Jyaire Hill in the first half of their Class 5A second-round playoff game Friday, Nov. 4, 2022 at Peoria Stadium. Peoria advanced with a 48-21 victory.

“Our defense is a key part this year,” the defensive lineman said. “That’s what got us this far. All that time we’ve been putting that work in, and it shows out on the field.”

That Peoria High defense held a potent and big-play Kankakee offense to 197 yards from scrimmage. The Kays (8-3), ranked No. 3 in the final poll by The Associated Press, marched right down the field, capping a 14-play, 55-yard drive with a QB sneak from Larenz Walters for a 7-6 first-quarter lead.

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However, a safety, kickoff return, and a late fourth-quarter TD catch from Karson King were the only points managed by a Kankakee team who entered the contest putting up 35.3 points a game. Romie Walker and Spencer Russell each also had an interception for Peoria High.

“Defense was outstanding,” Peoria High coach Tim Thornton said. “They had a great plan going in. We knew if we let them out, they were going to go crazy. They were so much faster than us.”

Kankakee may have had the quickness, but Peoria High was way more physical in the trenches. Thornton says he saw on film the Kays had trouble containing teams who ran the ball between the tackles.

Peoria High's TQ Webb, left, Ricky Hearn, right, and Sean Franklin celebrate Webb's touchdown reception against Kankakee in the first half of their Class 5A second-round playoff game Friday, Nov. 4, 2022 at Peoria Stadium. Peoria advanced with a 48-21 victory.

So, Peoria High utilized its gap-screen runs to bully the Kankakee defense into giving up 289 yards on the ground and 151 passing yards from Gist.

“We were able to just execute things that we do,” Thornton said.

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Washington, who is over 2,400 yards this season, had 39 carries overall. He scored the game’s first TD on a 3-yard carry, adding scores of 13, 3 and 1 yards before backup Frank Odom scored a 62-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown.

TQ Webb snagged a 29-yard TD and Newby-Holesome added another TD reception to complete the Peoria High scoring.

“I'm really proud of him,” Washington said of his fullback. "That's my teammate. That's my boy. ... He does a lot for the team."

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.