FARMINGTON -- The Paxton-Buckley-Loda football team is one win away from doing something it has not done in more than 20 years.
If the Panthers can defeat Farmington in the second round of the IHSA Class 3A playoffs, a game that will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday, they will be in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 1998.
"These kids have been talking about wanting to continue to go farther than teams have in the past," PBL head coach Josh Pritchard said.
With a 46-6 win at home over Chicago Carver in the first round, PBL earned its fourth trip to the second round in five years.
"A home game (in the first round) was what we wanted, and we got that. We want to try to get more home games, but the way to get more home games is you're going to have to go on the road to win some. Here we are in the second round going on the road hoping we can earn more playoff games in the future. We've got to focus on this week," Pritchard said.
"There are only 16 teams in 3A, and everybody's 0-0, and your goal is to go 1-0 this week. That's going to be our goal with these kids, and I think they're ready for that. They seem pretty focused so far, and I hope we can put a game plan together that puts these kids in the right place because when they're in the right place, they tend to make the plays for us."
The Panthers will partake in a two-hour bus ride to Farmington for Saturday's second-round game.
"We have to get them focused and ready. We're going to do a few things to kind of stretch them out early before we go, and we may arrive a little early just so we can get our legs loose, but I know our kids will be super focused, and it's a good team together. These kids enjoy spending time with each other," Pritchard said.
"That's one thing I'm very happy about because any time you have a close team, you tend to have a have a pretty good team on the field because they all just support each other. We've got to just focus on that, and then we'll figure out what we do the next round. Obviously, we have to win this one first because we know that we're probably going to be on the road again in the future if we do happen to win this one."
In more ways than one, PBL will be facing a team that mirrors its own.
Farmington and PBL both enter the game with 8-2 records and had both played five playoff-bound teams in the regular season, but that is not the only thing the two teams have in common, according to Pritchard and Farmington head coach Toby Vallas.
"They definitely are pretty similar to us in that we both like to spread the ball out," Pritchard said. "We have quite a few kids that we want to get the ball to. We both have a pretty good defense. I think it's going to be a pretty contested game, and I just hope we can come out on top."
"We do similar stuff on offense," Vallas added. "I think it's a very good matchup. I guess you don't know until you get out there. That's thing about the playoffs -- you don't know until you get out on the field. I think they're quite bigger than us on paper."
The Panthers and Farmers also have a common opponent, as Farmington won 28-14 over Seneca in the first round of the playoffs. Seneca lost 22-18 to PBL in week four.
Unlike PBL, Farmington did not play on its home field for the first round of the playoffs. The Farmers played at Dunlap High School due to bad field conditions caused by snowfall the previous Thursday, but Vallas said the field should be ready for next Saturday's second-round game.
"It's always better to be at home than it is on the road. Our field was just underwater, but it'll be fine by the end of the week," Vallas said.
Josh McMullin threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Corbin Rutledge during last Friday's playoff game, but Pritchard was more with his running abilities as well.
"Their quarterback's really athletic," Pritchard said. "I know he ran for quite a few yards. They really ran him hard. He's just really elusive, so we definitely have to break down and keep him in the pocket."
The Farmers went into the playoffs after scoring 36.6 points per game during the regular season.
"They've got two really nice outside receivers that go get the ball on their deep verticals," Pritchard said. "They've got another little scat kid on their jet plays that breaks a ton of tackles and does a good job. (Wide receiver/defensive end Jaden Rutledge) is just an absolute beast. They've got lots of good players to worry about. Hopefully, we can put a game plan together that can slow them down a little bit."
Quinton Fultz scored two touchdowns against Seneca as well for Farmington.
"I think it could different guys on different nights," Vallas said. "Quinton Fultz gets a lot of touches for us. We've got pretty good receivers, and our quarterback does a little bit of everything for us as well."
Hunter Anderson scored two rushing touchdowns and had scoring reception against Carver last Saturday.
"Hunter does some nice things," Vallas said.
Gunner Belt had two touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown against Carver.
"The quarterback's a very good runner," Vallas said. "They have good receivers who catch the ball."
The Panthers scored 35.1 points per game during the regular season.
"They've got a lot of good athletes," Vallas said. "They're pretty good all over."
The PBL defense held Carver scoreless through three quarters and went into the playoffs yielding only 14.9 points per game during the regular season.
"Defensively, you can tell they like to hit," Vallas said.
Last week against Seneca, Kyle Peckham picked off three passes for the Farmers.
"We've fairly solid this year," Vallas said. "We've had some bad games and some good games like everybody else."
Farmington yielded only 11.7 points per game during the regular season.
"It's crazy how good they've been," Pritchard said. "They're really big up front. They've got some nice athletes on the back end that help their defense out, and they attack downhill, too. We're going to have to just sustain blocks and sustain drives. We're going to have to be balanced between run and pass because we have to keep them off balance. If they can key on one thing, then we're not going to be very successful, so we hope that we can just force them to stop a lot of different things."
TALE OF THE TAPE
Category Farmington PBL
Record 8-2 8-2
Enrollment 429 472
Opp. record 43-38 41-40
Playoff opps. 5 5
Avg. ppg. 36.6 35.1
Avg. opp. ppg. 11.7 14.9
Avg. point diff. 24.9 20.2
Cons. playoff app. 5 6
Playoff record 9-18 12-18
Record — 8-2
How they got there:
Week 1 — Farmington 28, Toulon Stark County (3-6) 7
Week 2 — Kewanee Anna-Wethersfield (10-0) 32, Farmington 0
Week 3 — Farmington 40, Rushville-Industry (6-4) 6
Week 4 — Farmington 34, Peoria Heights (0-9) 7
Week 5 — Farmington 40, Havana (5-5) 7
Week 6 — Farmington 40, Sciota Bushnell-West Prairie (3-6) 0
Week 7 — Farmington 61, Elmwood-Brimfield (2-7) 6
Week 8 — Farmington 40, Abingdon-Avon (6-4) 6
Week 9 — Knoxville (10-0) 34, Farmington 21
First round — Farmington 28, Seneca (5-5) 14
Players to watch:
Quinton Fultz — He scored two touchdowns against Seneca.
Josh McMullin — He threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Corbin Rutledge against Seneca.
Kyle Peckham — He picked off three passes against Seneca.
Record — 8-2
How they got there:
Week 1 — GCMS (9-1) 32, PBL 8
Week 2 — PBL 52, Georgetown-Ridge Farm (3-6) 12
Week 3 — PBL 50, Iroquois West (1-8) 0
Week 4 — PBL 22, Seneca (5-5) 18
Week 5 — PBL 44, Momence (1-8) 7
Week 6 — PBL 42, Salt Fork (5-5) 0
Week 7 — Clifton Central (10-0) 29, PBL 14
Week 8 — PBL 43, Watseka (7-3) 15
Week 9 — PBL 41, Dwight (3-6) 21
First round — PBL 46, Chicago Carver (6-3) 6
Players to watch:
Hunter Anderson — He scored three touchdowns, including two on the ground, last Saturday against Chicago Carver.
Gunner Belt — He passed for two touchdowns and ran for one more against Chicago Carver.
Drake Schrodt — He scored two touchdowns against Chicago Carver.