Head football coach Andy Romine’s squad ran their way into the playoffs this past Friday upending the Meridian Hawks on their home field 50-18 in a penalty ridden contest. Both collected double-digit flags but the loss yardage didn’t faze the boys in black and gold as they added 467-yards of offense to the teams season stat sheet gaining 274 yards on the ground and another 193-yards thru the air delivering 28-first downs en-route to their seventh victory of the season.
Logan Tabeling led the rushing attack that averaged over eight yards a crack for the second straight week. Tuscola’s signal caller gained a game best 116 yards on elven carries scoring three of the six Warrior scoring ground assaults. Next up was junior running back Grant Hardwick who added 92 yards on eleven tries scoring twice while Payton Armstrong donated 47 yards on seven carries.
Brandon Douglas and Jalen Quinn were the top targets for Tabeling in the passing game. Douglas grabbed three catches for 55 yards including a 25-yard touchdown. Quinn hauled in one more accounting for four grabs for 57 yards. Next in line was senior Jake Kibler donating 42 yards on three catches. Nate Koester followed with 3-catches as well for 42 yards. Tabeling was good on 14 of 19, passing firing four balls that went for more than 20 yards and 10 balls that resulted in first down yardage.
Romine’s crew got the ball rolling scoring on the fourth play from scrimmage thanks to a 52-yard jaunt over the left side by Tabeling with less than two minutes gone in the game. He then found Quinn on the two-point conversion putting the Warriors on top 8-0 early. Hardwick then followed the big boys up front for a 10-yard score to make it 14-0 Warriors. Mike Calderon, Caden Cradle, Jonah Pierce and Colton Guenther welcomed a new comer to the front five. Haven Hatfield filled in for Hans Goodman at right tackle and helped pave the way for the ground barrage.
“The early score helped set the tone,” commented the coach. “Their outside linebackers started squeezing hard into the box on run plays which allowed us to hit some quick passing game on the outside.”
Tuscola pushed the lead to 22-0 at the 4:43 mark of the first frame when Tabeling located Douglas for a 25 yard scoring strike. Meridian fired back early in the second stanza but the Warriors blocked the point after making it 22-6. Tabeling found pay dirt for the second time in the first half bursting over the right side for a 3 yard score widening the lead to 28-6 entering the break.
Gibson Wells and Josh Dyer led the defense early in the third quarter forcing a three and out and Tabeling rewarded their efforts scoring from five yards out. Douglas followed with a three yard run on the two-point conversion increasing Tuscola’s lead to 36-6. Dyer and Wells accounted for eighteen tackles each adding nine stops to their season totals.
Senior Jonah Pierce was right on the heels of his classmates delivering eight tackles, including two for loss while two more fourth year players Kibler and Lucas Kresin combined for fourteen tackles. Kibler appeared everywhere at times coming up big against the run and pass game of the Hawks. Kresin swiped a Hawk pass out of the air in the second frame that led to a quick Warrior score.
Meridian cut into the lead with their second score of the night but once more the defense denied their point after try keeping it at 36-12 Tuscola. Hardwick then lit up some lights on the scoreboard with 2:59 left in the third scoring on a 14 yard run and Tabling followed with a two-point conversion pushing it to 44-12. Meridian answered with one of their own cutting it to 44-18 before Armstrong strolled into the end zone on the first play of the final frame ending the scoring with Tuscola on top 50-18 moving the Warriors to 7-2 record on the year overall and 4-2 in the vaunted Central Illinois Conference.
“We have a lot of playoff points, so we knew if we won this game, we would most likely host a home game in the first round,” stated the coach. “I wish we would have been better in the two minute drill at the end of the first half but that aside the line blocked well down field and the offense was strong overall.”
The CIC put four of its eight teams into the playoffs including class 1A top seeded Central A&M and won over 75 percent of its non-conference skirmishes winning 13 of 16 outings. Tuscola landed in class 2A and will host Flora. The Timberwolves enter the playoffs with a 6-3 record boasting a well balanced offense that spreads it out at times and then relies on a two tight end, three back running attack when needed.