DOWNS -- The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley football team got back on track last Friday with a 42-0 win over Fisher.
It followed a 14-6 loss to Fieldcrest that gave the Falcons their first defeat since 2016.
"It was good to bounce back from the week before. We learned from the week before, and that carried over to our game (last Friday)," GCMS head coach Mike Allen said. "We were very excited and happy with how our kids executed and performed this past Friday night. It's nice to get back on track coming into the final stretch of the regular season."
A win over Tri-Valley would not only give the Falcons (4-1) their second straight win, but it would also make GCMS eligible for its 15th playoff appearance in the last 16 years.
Allen said he is taking a one-game-at-a-time approach.
"We can't look ahead to the playoffs yet," Allen said. "We try not to put too much into it. We just look at it as its week six of the season. We have to worry about week six. We have to now turn our focus to Tri-Valley and prepare for them this week in practice."
That sentiment was shared by Tri-Valley head coach Josh Roop, whose team needs three wins to be eligible for the playoffs.
As of week five, GCMS has the No. 9 ranking in Class 2A in the IHSA's playoff outlook. The Falcons' 26 tiebreaker points are the second-most among 2A schools with a 4-1 record.
Meanwhile, Tri-Valley has the 34th ranking in 2A, and the Vikings' 28 tiebreaker points are the third-most among 2A schools with a 2-3 record.
"We're just trying to get better every week right now," Roop said. "We need to focus on ourselves, and if we do, the playoffs will take care of themselves."
After starting off its season with losses to Decatur St. Teresa (41-0), Fieldcrest (25-0) and Fisher (29-23), the Vikings have won two straight games.
"I think the kids starting to gel," Roop said. "They're starting to play together.
At the beginning of the year, we weren't playing very well as a team. I think right now, they're starting to figure some things out."
The turnaround has not been a surprise to Allen.
"Throw the record out the window because they're one of those programs that are going to get better every week," Allen said.
Getting a third straight win will be a "tall order," Roop said, against a GCMS program that has won 32 of its last 33 games, including the last two state championships and wins over Paxton-Buckley-Loda (32-8), Eureka (35-10) and Heyworth (34-7).
"They're playing good football right now," Roop said.
Last Friday, Aidan Laughery and Payton Kean combined for 208 yards and four touchdowns on the ground for GCMS.
The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Kean had 48 of those yards while scoring two touchdowns from 5 and 22 yards.
"I thought it was Payton's best game of the season running- and blocking-wise," Allen said. "He just had a great game."
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Laughery had 160 yards on 15 carries, including a 77-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter.
"Aidan is going to get those yards with his speed and his moves," Allen said.
Isaiah Chatman started at wingback for the Falcons.
"He picked up yards on the ground," Allen said.
Chatman received a 59-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cade Elliott, who went 2-for-3 for 113 yards.
"(Isaiah) and Cade really connected," Allen said. "When you have all four of those parts clicking like they did on Friday night, it's tough to focus on one thing. That's what we need to make sure we're doing on the offensive side -- spreading the ball and keeping teams guessing."
Jordan Lee had a team-high eight tackles, along with one sack, for a GCMS defense that held Fisher to 57 yards rushing and 59 yards passing en route to its first shutout of the season.
"The guys played very well," Allen said. "We gang-tackled."
Despite the shutout, Allen said there is still room for improvement, particularly with the Falcons' open-field tackling efforts.
"There was a lot of arm tackling. That's something we're going to have to work on this week in practice, but overall, our defense has played very well all season and has kept us in games and given us a chance," Allen said. "They've given us the ball in a short field a lot of times during the games. I'm just very happy with where they're at, and once we shore up the tackling, it'll make us a better team."
The aforementioned skill players, and the defense, are well-aided by a standout offensive and defensive line, according to Roop.
"They both come off the ball very well," Roop said. "It's obvious that they're well-coached. They're fundamentally sound in what they do."
In a 28-7 win last Friday over LeRoy, Tri-Valley (2-3) outscored LeRoy 21-0 in the fourth quarter. Evan Reynolds gained 119 yards on 17 carries and scored all three of the Vikings' touchdowns.
"We're going to need him to play well Friday night to be able to do what we need to do," Roop said.
In week four, Tri-Valley turned three interceptions into touchdowns en route to a 35-6 win over El Paso-Gridley.
"They fight to the ball. They stack the box," Allen said. "They force you to make mistakes. They're just a solid defensive team. Their offensive and defensive lines fire off the ball really well."
Zander Woodring had 14 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown against EP-G.
"They don't have any one superstar. They're all solid players," Allen said. "Their basic fundamentals are very strong. In the past, their line has given us fits with how quick and strong they are off the line."