GIBSON CITY -- Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Rushville-Industry enter the IHSA Class 2A playoffs from different directions.
The Falcons are hosting the first-round game between the two teams at 2 p.m. Saturday. It is the fifth straight year they are hosting a first-round postseason contest.
"We would love to see big crowd come out and support these guys," GCMS head coach Mike Allen said.
Rushville-Industry’s last playoff win was in 2006. Since then, GCMS has racked up 17-10 postseason record, including winning the last two state championships.
"When you go into the playoffs in a position like ours, you have to anticipate that you're going to play somebody who's pretty good. You know their history. You know they're a traditional power. We're excited about the opportunity," Rushville-Industry head coach Brian Lafferty said. "Our kids have worked hard, and we're excited to be in the playoffs. We're excited to be given an opportunity with the challenge that we'll face here. We'll play hard and see what happens."
Last Friday, GCMS (8-1) defeated Deer Creek-Mackinaw without their two-two rushers.
Payton Kean was held out with an ankle sprain, and Aidan Laughery hurt his arm on the first play of the game, and according to Allen, was held out of the rest of the game for precautionary reasons.
"Both (of them) should be back healthy and ready to go," Allen said. "We still have a lot of work to do to prepare for (Rushville-Industry), and we need to get healthy."
Isaiah Chatman switched to fullback and led GCMS in rushing with 93 yards on 12 carries. Daniel Jones played tailback and had 46 yards on 14 carries while Nathan Kallal had five carries for 36 yards and two catches for 43 yards as a wingback.
"Those three did very well for themselves," Allen said. "They've proven that, if they have to, other guys can step in there and play also."
A next-man-up mentality is not unfamiliar to GCMS as it replaced nine defensive starters on defense and seven starters on offense from last year before this season started.
"They've gelled together as a team and have gotten better each week," Allen said.
Meanwhile, Rushville-Industry (6-3) is making its first playoff appearance since 2016.
Through Lafferty's first two years as Rushville-Industry's head coach, the Rockets went 1-8 in 2017 and 5-4 in 2018.
"We've got some kids who have played a lot for us for the last three years -- kids I would consider pillars of our program," Lafferty said.
This season, one of Rushville's captains, Josh Triplett, has 302 passing yards and 191 rushing yards.
"He's a great leader for our team," Lafferty said.
Senior offensive/defensive lineman Zach Johnson and senior free safety Keaton Logan have been great leaders as well, according to Lafferty.
"All of these guys were leaders with us for a long time," Lafferty said. "I've got a lot of great kids who have helped us build and get better each year and have put in a bunch of work. We all try to work hard and do our part and be better the previous week and be better the previous year. These guys have helped us move things into the right direction."
Junior Kreedan Allen is the Rockets' leading rusher with 801 yards.
"He's a tough-nosed runner," Allen said.
James Corrie has gained 710 rushing yards in Rushville-Industry's wishbone offense.
"They run it effectively," Allen said. "The line does a great job."
As of Oct. 17, Laughery had rushed for 1,029 yards and 16 touchdowns while Kean rushed for 457 yards and eight touchdowns as of Oct. 17 in GCMS's wing-T offense.
"They play fast and they play physical," Lafferty said. "There's a reason that they've been successful. Scheme wise, they do a few different things offensively. They aren't anything too crazy from what we haven't seen. We have teams in our conference who run that style of offense and play really fast. Football is about how you actually play as far as blocking, tackling and being physical and things of that nature, and they do those things really well."
Quarterback Cade Elliott threw for 111 yards on 7-of-12 passing against Dee-Mack last Friday.
"He's a nice player. He does a nice job," Lafferty said.
"Our passing game has come a long way," Allen added. "Cade has a lot of confidence throwing the ball."
The Falcons finished the Dee-Mack game with 308 total yards, including 197 on the ground.
"Our offensive line has really stepped up and done a great job of sustaining their blocks," Allen said. "Our running backs are blocking a lot better and running the ball well."
"I feel that their offensive line gets off the ball really hard," Lafferty added. "Overall, as a whole, I was impressed with them up front."
The GCMS defense, meanwhile, has yielded only 5.1 points per game.
"Our defense has played solid all year," Allen said. "When the defense is playing that well, a lot of good things can happen. Hopefully, we'll keep those things rolling right now."
The Falcons held Dee-Mack to 86 total yards en route to producing their third consecutive shutout.
"I think we've done a lot of good things on defense," Allen said. "Keegan Kutemeier and Brandon Mueller are really playing well at linebacker. Up front, Trey Reynolds and Jordan Lee are clogging up the middle. It's just exciting to see how they're playing. We need to play with a little more emotion. High school football is a game of emotion and momentum. We just want to play with a little more enthusiasm on both sides of the ball."
This is the second meeting between GCMS and Rushville. Their first meeting was held on Oct. 31, 1998, when Falcons upset the Rockets 28-24 in first round of the 1998 playoffs.
Under head coach Vic Jennings, the Falcons went 8-4 and reached the 2A state quarterfinals while Rushville ended its season with a record of 8-2. Allen served as a volunteer coach that year.
"That was an exciting game," Allen said. "I'll never forget it. It was a game of momentum shifting back and forth. Once we got it, our kids just played their hearts out and picked up big win for our program. It was a heck of a game. It was nuts."
According to Lafferty, Rushville-Industry's cameraman remembers the game.
"The first thing that happened was he he came up to me and said, 'We played these guys a long time ago,'" Lafferty said. "He remembers that game."
The Rockets' players likely do not share the same memory, Lafferty said.
"Recency is kind of a big deal with kids," Lafferty said. "If you ask kids from either side, I'm guessing there wouldn't be any kids who would remember."
TALE OF THE TAPE
Category R-I GCMS
Record 6-3 8-1
Enrollment 347 320
Opp. record 32-49 44-37
Playoff opps. 3 4
Avg. ppg. 26.4 28.8
Avg. opp. ppg. 26.4 5.1
Avg. point diff. 0.0 23.7
Cons. playoff app. 1 7
Playoff record 3-6 20-16
Record — 6-3
How they got there:
Week 1 — Rushville-Industry 34, Monmouth United (2-7) 24
Week 2 — Knoxville (9-0) 40, Rushville-Industry 8
Week 3 — Farmington (7-2) 40, Rushville-Industry 6
Week 4 — Rushville-Industry 8, Sciota Bushnell-West Prairie (3-6) 0
Week 5 — Rushville-Industry 14, Peoria Heights (0-9) 7
Week 6 — Rushville-Industry 30, Elmwood-Brimfield (2-7) 28
Week 7 — Rushville-Industry 48, Havana (5-4) 43
Week 8 — Carthage Illini West (4-5) 28, Rushville-Industry 26
Week 9 — Rushville-Industry 64, Astoria South Fulton (0-9) 28
Players to watch:
Josh Triplett — He has 302 passing yards and 191 rushing yards.
Kreedan Allen — He is the Rockets' rushing leader with 801 yards.
James Corrie — He has 710 rushing yards.
Record — 8-1
How they got there:
Week 1 — GCMS 32, PBL (7-2) 8
Week 2 — GCMS 35, Eureka (7-2) 10
Week 3 — GCMS 34, Heyworth (3-6) 7
Week 4 — Fieldcrest (9-0) 14, GCMS 6
Week 5 — GCMS 42, Fisher (7-2) 0
Week 6 — GCMS 22, Tri-Valley (4-5) 7
Week 7 — GCMS 42, LeRoy (3-6) 0
Week 8 — GCMS 27, El Paso-Gridley (2-7) 0
Week 9 — GCMS 19, Deer Creek-Mackinaw (2-7) 0
Players to watch:
Aidan Laughery — As of Oct. 17, he had rushed for 1,029 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Payton Kean — He rushed for 457 yards and eight touchdowns as of Oct. 17.
Isaiah Chatman — He led the Falcons with 93 yards on 12 carries last week against Dee-Mack.
This is the second meeting between GCMS and Rushville-Industry. The first meeting was held Oct. 31, 1998, when Falcons upset the Rockets 28-24 in first round of 1998 playoffs.