FOOTBALL

How Peoria High changed its mentality and ran away with an IHSA football quarterfinal

Adam Duvall
Journal Star

Peoria High is coming home.

The Lions used a stingy second-half defense to beat host Mascoutah, 36-21 in a Class 5A football quarterfinal on Saturday. Peoria High (11-1) now welcomes Morris (10-2) next Saturday to Peoria Stadium for a 2 p.m. semifinal kick.

A strong second half on both sides of the ball helped Peoria High advance to its first semifinal since the school's 2016 5A state championship season. Three Malachi Washington touchdowns helped erase a 21-14 halftime deficit and give the Lions their third home playoff game this postseason.

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"We just told the kids, 'Hey, we're doing too much to ourselves,' " Peoria High coach Tim Thornton told stltoday.com. "We went in and changed our mentality at halftime and came out a different team."

Washington, who rushed for 268 yards on 40 carries, scored third-quarter TDs from 4 and 2 yards out. He added a 38-yard, game-sealing score with 1:49 to play.

The 5-foot-10, 172-pound senior running back added a 1-yard TD as part of 14 points in 14 second-quarter seconds. That burst started when Peoria High QB Tino Gist hit TQ Webb for a 68-yard TD at the 3:08 mark of the opening quarter.

Washington found the end zone for the first time, then added a 2-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.

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"We kept our heads high," Washington told stltoday.com. "We trusted each other. Even though you're down, that doesn't mean anything. We still had time."

Mascoutah (8-4), however, responded with 14 unanswered points of its own before halftime. But Peoria High buckled down and limited the Indians to no points on four second-half possessions.

Peoria High rolled up 416 yards of total offense — 270 rushing and 146 passing — on 66 offensive plays. Gist finished with all 146 passing yards, going 9-for-25 and hooking up with Webb for 114 yards on five catches.

As for the Lions defense, Mascoutah was limited to 239 total yards (130 rushing, 109 passing) and 13 first downs. Allen Middleton rushed for 83 yards and a TD, while Zane Timon tossed a pair of scores to Quincy Hall.