By Tony Hooker
The Villa Grove Heritage Blue Devils earned their twenty-first trip to the state playoffs, and once again I was reminded of how fickle athletic competition can be. It truly is a game of inches and moments.
Take the Blue Devils for example. Only a desperation heave by backup quarterback Liam Barr to Keagan Patterson with the clock running down saved the season. On the previous two plays, Pirate players actually had their hands on the ball, and if they had held on to the interception, we go 4-5 and don’t get to make the trip south next Saturday. To VGH’s credit, they played to the end and made the play that ultimately earned them their playoff berth.
Speaking of the trip, google maps tells me that Nashville is 2 hours and 17 minutes south of the river city, off Interstate 64.
The Hornets are 8-1 this season, and average nearly 50 points per contest while holding their opponents to just 19. They’ve won 16 ball games in the past two years and dropped their opening round playoff game a year ago by a single touchdown to Tri Valley. Take note, Devils fans, Tri Valley came into the game as the twelve seed with a 5-4 record. This year, VGH comes into the game as the twelve seed, with a 5-4 record. It doesn’t guarantee results, of course, but it does show that it’s possible.
Nashville played two teams that qualified for the playoffs in 2019, defeating West Frankfort and losing to conference champion DuQuoin. Nashville’s opponents had a season record of 25-56. Conversely, six of nine Blue Devils opponents this year will be playing next week. Their combined record? 45-36. From film, the Hornets look to be a team who runs the spread formation. Their tight end looks to be a real load, and their receivers are tall and live off yards after the catch. It will be a true challenge for the Blue Devils to stop an offense that’s lowest output of the season is 35 points in a six-point loss to DuQuoin, but it can be done, and as they say, that’s why they play the game. It would be great for Blue Devil nation to make the 120-mile jaunt to support the team. Over the years, I’ve always been amazed and proud at how often we had more fans at away games than the home team. Hopefully this will be the case again this year.
Speaking of “fans”, from inside the fence at road games this year, I’ve noticed that there are a few who feel that it’s their right to make disparaging remarks. Fans yelling at officials. Fans yelling at players. Fans yelling at coaches. It’s been borderline embarrassing at times. Thankfully, the overwhelming majority cheer for their teams and are respectful of their opponents and the refs, but there are those few who cross the line. Here’s a hint. Officials aren’t going to change their calls because some dufus is screaming from the sidelines. Here’s another hint. The young men playing the game take their cues from the coaches and fans and shouting at officials is a good way to get ejected from the contest.
Truthfully, I used to be one of the worst offenders when it comes to being a game official and coach from the sidelines, but I’ve reformed, and if I can change, so can you. Safe travels, and we’ll see you next week in Washington County.