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Tuscola Warriors defeat Shelbyville Rams 54-48 in thriller

Senior quarterback Logan Tabeling and his brothers in black and gold never waned in a 54-48 Central Illinois Conference shootout senior night victory over an explosive Shelbyville squad despite a late rally by the Rams. Tabeling accounted for 446-yards connecting on twelve of the seventeen through the air for 309-yards and four touchdowns in a game where the two high-powered offenses erupted for nearly 1,200-yards of offense.

The Warriors signal caller also followed his classmates Caden Cradle and Jonah Pierce up front who joined with underclassmen Mike Calderon, Hans Goodman and Colton Guenther for 147 yards rushing and a score on a workman like twenty totes of the pigskin. Line coach Ted Minger’s group paved the way for 230 yards and two scores while not giving up a sack. Grant Hardwick grinded out forty-nine yards on eleven carries. Jalen Quinn led the way in receiving yards grabbing five balls for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Brandon Douglas was next up with five catches for 116 yards and a score while Hardwick snatched a pair out of the air for twenty-two yards.

Tuscola scored on every possession but one and that may have been the one that led to the league win. Head coach Andy Romine squad led by thirteen early in the final stanza leaned on the ground game taking seven minutes off the clock on a 68 yard drive that stalled at the Rams six yard line. Tabeling, Jalen Quinn, Brandon Douglas and Hardwick converting three times on third down and once on fourth with a nineteen yards strike in the right flat from Tabeling to Douglas.

Shelbyville answered with a score but ran out of time after Nate Koester recovered the Rams onside kick attempt allowing the Warriors to run out the clock. Tuscola possessed the ball nearly ten minutes in the final period. “We decided to shorten the game at the end and the play of our offensive line allowed us to do just that,” stated Romine. “Coach Minger does a great job with the guys up front, at times they had ten men in the box trying to stop the line and our guys found a way to keep the chains moving.”

It was a back and forth affair early with the two teams trading touchdowns in the first quarter en-route to a 21-21 tie at the first buzzer. Payton Armstrong was the first in black and gold to reach the end zone scoring on a six yard plunge from a wildcat formation. Tabeling answered Shelbyville’s first score with a sixty yard strike to Quinn but the Rams returned the favor two minutes later to knot it at 14’s. Tabeling then took it in from eleven yards out before the Rams evened it up at 21 with a twenty-yard touchdown pass.

It was all Warriors in the second frame as Quinn went in from six yards out before Tabeling connecting with Douglas for a twenty-four-yard touchdown and Quinn for an 80 yard score with under a minute to play pushing Tuscola’s lead to twenty-one 42-21. The Warriors thwarted a Ram drive forcing a fumble thanks to a big hit by Tyler Walker and senior defensive end Josh Dyer that fellow fourth year player Lucas Kresin recovered in the end zone. Kresin and Dyer accounted for four and six stops respectively while Walker was tabbed for four tackles. Douglas led the way on that side of the ball collecting eight solo tackles and thirteen total. Next up was Pierce who corralled eleven Rams followed by seniors Gibson Wells and Jake Kibler who combined to halt fifteen ball carriers. Two other classmates recorded stops. Sergio Martinez held down the nose guard position recording two tackles and Silas Hortin kicked off and found his way to a pair of stops.

Shelbyville rallied behind their multi threat quarterback Kentrill Beck scoring on the opening drive of the second half but coach Connor Plotner’s kickoff team pushed the lead to 20, 48-28 with a 90 yard return by Douglas. Douglas found the end zone again later in the frame hauling in a twenty-three-yard pass by Tabeling increasing the lead to 54-28. The Rams fired back on their next drive then executed an onside kick to perfection and scored again less than two minutes into the fourth frame cutting it to 54-41. They added another touchdown following the time consuming drive on a forced fumble by the Warriors that a Ram scooped up and traveled twenty-two-yard to the end-zone making it 54-48. Koester recovered the onside and the Warriors kneeled it out for the win improving to 6-2 on the year overall and 4-2 in the CIC securing a spot in the playoffs.

Missing from the playing field but not from the pregame ceremony, the sideline and the celebration following the game were injured seniors Max Wyninger, Ashton Jones, Ben Dixon and Cameron Homan. All four of which have suffered season ending injuries. The Warriors travel to Macon for a date with the Meridian Hawks for the final regular game of the season.

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