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Villa Grove Blue Devils lose to Panthers in IHSA football playoff opener

By Tony Hooker
When you’ve drawn a very high seed in the IHSA football playoffs, both your game plan and your execution have to be perfect. 

In Villa Grove’s 48-14 loss to Camp Point Central, the class 1A south bracket’s number one seed, the Blue Devils executed both halves of the plan for a quarter. Then the wheels came off as the Panthers unleashed a little used passing attack to thwart a defensive set that was focused on stopping the run, resulting in six straight unanswered touchdowns, taking a 48-6 lead into the halftime locker room before sophomore QB Layne Rund was able to find Parker Stevens on a 13 yd td completion with ten minutes remaining in the contest. 

For the contest, Rund was able to convert six of nine passes for 85 yards and the aforementioned scoring strike. 

The Devils received the opening kickoff and Gunner Cline’s nifty return (two returns for 36 yards) gave them good field position at their 42. The offense, however, could find no traction and were forced to punt. Elijah Kiesel then unleashed a 55-yard bomb that rolled dead at the Panther three yard line. The VG defense then stood tall and forced a CPC punt, one of only two on the day for the Panthers. 

This time, VG began to find some success with Stevens on the counter and a QB sneak by Liam Barr for a first down, but unfortunately, a negative running play and two incompletions forced another punt from the CPC 43, and this time Kiesel’s punt traveled only 16 yards before sailing out of bounds at the Panther 27.

On first down, Garret Williams found a hole in a vacated safety slot and an easy pitch and catch from Nick Moore covered the 73-yard distance to paydirt. The two-point conversion was good, and the score stood at 8-0. 

After another fine return from Cline again gave VG good field position at their 44, the Blue Devil offense began to show signs of life. Luke Zimmerman (ten carries for 34 yards) picked up seven on first down. A chop block penalty on VG moved the ball back to the VG 35, but then the Blue Devils tried a little trickeration, giving the ball to Layne Rund on and end around, only to have him throw the ball to Parker Stevens for a nice 38-yard gain, to the CPC 27. Stevens then ran for 16 yards to the 11 and Barr then was sacked at the 18. Barr then picked up six on a scramble before finding Brady Clodfelder (two catches for 28 yards) for 11, with the straining, stretching receiver coming up just short of paydirt. A quick snap QB sneak finished the drive, and Barr’s pass to Rund made the score 8-8 with 3:46 left in the opening stanza. 

From there, the Panthers used their superior size and speed to score the next 40 points, leading to a second half running clock. 

To their credit, the VGHS defense, led by Luke Zimmerman, who set a new single season tackles record with 155, breaking AJ Woodworth’s 2008 record of 148, never quit, pitching a shutout against the CPC reserves in the second half. Liam Barr, playing his final game in the Blue and Gold, gave his all on both sides of the ball, finishing with three solos and five assists on defense. Classmate Deandre Reinhart also showed out on D in his final football game with two solos and four assists. 

For the Panthers, Nick Moore completed four of five passes for 179 yards and four TD’s, while Garett Williams rushed for 95 yards on six carries and caught three passes for 144 yards and three TD’s. Villa Grove finishes with a record of 5-5 while Camp Point Central moves on to face Central A&M in Moweaqua in a second-round contest. The Panthers defeated the Raiders 44-14 in an October 16 contest, scheduled after both teams ‘opponents had to forfeit due to COVID-19.

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