GIBSON CITY -- Following his team's game last Friday against Tri-Valley, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley head coach Mike Allen witnessed LeRoy's contest against South Fulton the following Saturday.
What he saw was a team that looked better than its 2-4 record.
"They're playing well right now," GCMS head coach Mike Allen said. "They're very physical and very aggressive. They're a very dangerous team to be playing right now."
LeRoy defeated South Fulton 36-6 last Saturday to improve to 2-4.
"It's always nice to get a win, especially with how difficult the Heart of Illinois Conference schedule is," LeRoy head coach BJ Zeleznik said. "If you can find a way to get a win, it's good for your kids and for your program. Our kids feel pretty good about that win on Saturday. For us, it's more about just trying to do things better day-in and day-out.
"Hopefully, the results on the field will bring new confidence. We're going to take a hard look at ourselves and work hard on things we feel like we need to improve on, and we'll just try to play better football every week. We hope this Friday, we play our best game of the season."
The Panthers led 24-0 through the end of the first quarter on Saturday.
Jeffrey Tuley rushed for a score and hauled in a touchdown pass from Max Buckles — one of Buckles’ two scoring throws — in the decisive first quarter. Aidan Eddy finished with two rushing touchdowns among 98 ground yards.
Max and twin brother Mason Buckles are "an outstanding duo in the passing game," Allen said.
The Panthers' other win came via a 7-6 score in week three over Deer Creek-Mackinaw.
"Their defense is physical and aggressive," Allen said. "They're young, but they're starting to mature and understand the varsity game. They're a dangerous team to be playing right now."
The Panthers' losses came via a 28-0 score to Eureka in week one, followed by a 14-6 loss to Ridgeview/Lexington in week two, a 25-6 loss to Tremont in week four and a 28-7 loss to Tri-Valley in week five.
"They played a very tough schedule up to this point. They've gotten better each week," Allen said. "They're a young team. They have grown through the season. What we saw Saturday is a team that is very physical and very aggressive. They get after it, so we're going to have match to their intensity."
With four losses, LeRoy needs to win all three of its remaining games to be eligible for the playoffs.
"We're in a tough spot," Zeleznik said. "We're just going to keep playing, and we'll see what happens."
The Falcons' 22-7 win in week five over Tri-Valley made them eligible for the playoffs.
"I think that we're a considerable underdog when you look at results throughout the course of the year, so we're going to have to play perfect football to give ourselves an opportunity," Zeleznik said. "Even then, it'll be a tall task."
Aidan Laughery led the Falcons' rushing attack with 92 yards on 24 carries.
"He is obviously a special talent," Zeleznik said. "You don't see that kind of natural speed year-in and year-out. He's able to do some things that some running backs can't. That's a concern because if you miss tackles, you're bound to give up big plays."
Wingback Isaiah Chatman rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries for GCMS last Friday. Fullback Payton Kean added 58 yards while quarterback had 18 yards rushing and four yards passing.
"Their wingback and fullback are both excellent runners. Their quarterback's athletic," Zeleznik said. "They've got some skill, no doubt about it."
The Falcons' defense, meanwhile, have held four of their six opponents to single-digit point totals. The most points they have allowed is 14 against Fieldcrest in week four.
Last Friday, Tri-Valley finished with 167 offensive yards.
"Their team speed is very impressive," Zeleznik said. "Their defense flies around and comes forward hard. They pursue the football very well. I've been very impressed with them on the defensive side of the ball."
Even though his team left Downs with the win, Allen said GCMS's performance left a lot to be desired.
"We're going to have to get off the ball a lot better than we did this past Friday night on both sides of the line of scrimmage," Allen said. "We're going to have to fight through some things this week during practice to make sure that we don't have the same things happen to us last Friday this Friday.
"We were outphysicaled this past Friday, and we can't allow that to happen. We have to get off the ball. We have to sustain our blocks until the whistle blows. We have to shore some things up that, going into week seven, we have to make sure we correct."