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STERLING — The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley football team ended its season, and its reign as the two-time defending Class 2A state champion, with a 21-6 loss to Sterling Newman Central Catholic in the second round of the 2A playoffs.

“When your season ends, it’s always tough to handle,” GCMS head coach Mike Allen said. “When you work hard, it’s hard to let go of something, and these kids worked their butts off all summer and all season. They know they probably didn’t play their best game, but Sterling Newman’s a really good team, and you can’t make mistakes against a team like that, but I’m super proud of our kids. They had a great year. On and off the field, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The Comets avenged postseason losses to the Falcons in 2017 and 2018 with the win, and will face top-seeded Knoxville in the 2A state quarterfinals.

“They’re a very good team,” Allen said. “They’re solid on both offense and defense. They have a good chance to go far, and we wish them the best of luck and would like to see them do well.”

The Falcons’ two losses this year were to SNCC and Fieldcrest (11-0), who will face Clifton Central in the 2A state quarterfinals after defeating GCMS 14-6 in week four.

“You can’t be ashamed of that. Sometimes, you just run into a team that’s better,” Allen said. “We tried everything we could, but Saturday night was just not our night.”

Aidan Laughery weaved 13 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter, but fifth-seeded GCMS (9-2) was unable to do anything else offensively.

The fourth-seeded Comets (10-1) scored all of their points in the first half, including six on a Connor McBride kickoff return of 88 yards with 36 left before halftime.

Newman gained 232 rushing yards, led by Andrew Velasquez with 106 yards on 19 carries while Kye O’Brien had 68 yards on 18 carries, Connor McBride had 56 yards on nine touches and Brandon Miller had two yards on one try.

Jacob Ackman was 1-for-4 passing for 15 yards while McBride had one reception for 15 yards.

The Falcons, meanwhile, had 185 yards of total offense, including 141 on the ground, led by Laughery with 109 yards on 17 carries. Payton Kean had 23 yards on six carries while Isaiah Chatman had four carries for five yards.

Cade Elliott went 3-for-8 passing for 44 yards while Colby Taylor had one reception for 20 yards and Hunter Wahl and Nick Culler each had one catch for 17 yards.

Kean, Elliott, Wahl, Taylor and Culler are part of a 13-player senior class for GCMS while Laughery is a sophomore and Chatman is in his junior year.

“We didn’t know what to expect from this senior class before the season started, but they had an awesome season,” Allen said. “We’re going to miss their leadership, their different personalities and what they went through. They’re leaving an incredible legacy, and we hope the younger kids can continue the work ethic in the weight room and leave a legacy just like these guys did.”