Williamsville football prevailed with the wind in its face and its back against the wall
WILLIAMSVILLE — No. 3 Williamsville seemed to be in complete control ahead 18-0 early in the fourth quarter.
No. 6 Eureka suddenly sprang to life with the wind to its back.
The Bullets (10-1) stymied the Hornets near midfield with a pivotal three-and-out defensive stand and senior quarterback Jake Seman helped orchestrate two first downs to ice a blustery 18-16 victory in the Class 3A second rounder at Paul Jenkins Field on Saturday.
“Stressful — definitely stressful,” Seman said. “If we don't get those two first downs in the end, that offense was rolling so they might have gone down and scored. I think our defense would have held them, but we needed those two first downs and got them.”
Williamsville will visit fellow Sangamo Conference member Stanford Olympia in the quarterfinals. The No. 15-seeded Spartans (7-4) upset No. 7 St. Joseph-Ogden 60-28.
The Bullets previously dispatched Olympia 42-14 in a Week 4 home matchup.
“It was real nerve-racking,” Williamsville senior defensive end Sam McCoy said. “We just had to stick with it, trust our reads and keep pushing.”
Going for it
The National Weather Service indicated wind gusts up to nearly 40 miles per hour by kickoff.
That jettisoned any thought of punting the ball against the wind in the first quarter as far as Williamsville coach Aaron Kunz was concerned.
It worked to his team's advantage.
Williamsville converted two fourth-downs on its opening 19-play drive that ended with a Colin Ripperda 10-yard touchdown run for a 6-0 lead.
The Bullets followed with a 14-play drive that began near the end of the first period and resulted in a 4-yard TD run by Seman for a 12-0 advantage with 9:16 left in the second quarter.
That possession included Seman’s 20-yard screen pass to senior wideout Jackson Workman for a first down on 4th-and-14 at their own 25-yard line.
“Most of those were with the wind in our face,” Williamsville coach Aaron Kunz said of those TD drives. “We had a really good plan to attack them on the ground and the kids came through in the first half.”
Williamsville totaled 36 carries for 112 rushing yards as a team in the first half against a rugged Eureka defense that averaged just 4.3 points allowed per game this season prior to the contest.
The Bullets finished with 62 carries for 140 rushing yards as a team.
Senior Colvin Fleck, listed at receiver, ran for 43 yards on 18 attempts in addition to three catches for 31 yards. Ripperda added 33 rushing yards.
“Throwing it was definitely hard, so we stuck to the run game and our running backs did a great job tonight,” Seman said of the howling wind. “Yeah, definitely more hard than it would have been.”
Seman, who holds three school records for career passing touchdowns, completions and total yards, went 15-of-23 for 152 yards with one interception. He also ran for 66 yards.
Workman chalked up 66 receiving yards on five grabs. Senior wideout Ethan Hinds also had five catches for 41 yards.
Late rally comes up short
David Jenkins hit two short field goals for the 18-0 cushion by the end of the third period.
Eureka (8-3) then capitalized on the favorable wind in the final stanza.
Senior quarterback Jacob Morin threw two TD passes to senior receiver Drew Dingledine on back-to-back possessions, the second from eight yards with 5:29 remaining.
“That's a very high potent offense that we slowed down a little bit,” Eureka coach Jason Bachman said. “When we got our backs to the wind, we started moving the ball a little bit. That definitely made a difference for sure, especially in our passing game. We're about 50/50 on run/pass, and in wind like this it's tough get the ball around the yard.”
Morin threw 8 of 13 for 65 yards. Dingledine had four catches for 44 yards.
“We're super proud of these kids,” Bachman said. “I've known these kids since they were probably 3 and 4 years old and they've always just had that kind of resiliency. They always want to be working to the next step, and they did that.
“They battled back and almost had it. Just wasn't meant to be, today I guess.”
McCoy generated two sacks and recovered a fumble for Williamsville.
“We just had to keep working,” McCoy said. “It was a whole team effort, so we just all work together and got it done.
“Our defense really stepped up today and got the job done. Our linebackers made plays and the D-line was pretty solid up front.”
Contact Bill Welt: (217) 788-1545,email@example.com, Twitter.com/BillWelt