DWIGHT — As Paxton-Buckley-Loda head coach Josh Pritchard said after his team won 41-21 in its regular-season finale, “a win’s a win.”
The Panthers (7-2, 5-1 Sangamon Valley Conference) overcame a 21-6 halftime deficit by outscoring the Trojans (3-6, 2-4) 35-0 in the second half.
"In the first half, our kids really didn't match their physicality, so at halftime, we talked about how we've got to match their physicality because we knew they were going to continue to run it," Pritchard said. "Our kids came out and definitely matched their physicality in the second half."
Drake Schrodt scored three consecutive touchdowns to put PBL up 28-21, scoring from four yards out with 8:52 left in the third quarter before plunging it in twice from a distance of one yard, including the go-ahead score with 8:10 left in the game.
“Sometimes, you just have to pick up your teammates. I know we did not have a good first half,” Schrodt said. “Coach let us know that. We just found a way to bounce back. Our offensive line picked it up in the second half. Tip the caps off to them.”
After PBL's Tyler Smith recovered an onside kick to start the second half, two runs by Hunter Anderson netted nine yards before a quarterback keeper by Gunner Belt on third-and-1 moved the ball to Dwight's 38-yard line. A screen pass from Belt to Colton Coy resulted in a 9-yard gain before Belt ran for another first down.
Two more runs moved the ball to the 15-yard line for a first down. After a 5-yard run by Anderson, Dwight was called for a penalty for having 12 men on the field.
On second-and-1, Anderson ran for a first down. Schrodt scored on the next play.
Two Carson Crouch runs and a quarterback sneak gave Dwight a first down on its own 49-yard line on its ensuing possession. After Dwight was called for holding on a Crouch run, PBL was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty on a screen pass, giving the Trojans a first down.
After Samuel Edwards was tackled by Gavin Coplea, Dwight was called for two penalties on a Crouch run, one for holding and another for a dead-ball foul.
The penalties moved the ball back to Dwight's own 19-yard line for a second-and-40.
An incomplete pass and a false-start penalty was followed by a run by Edwards for 10 yards. PBL's Levi Frichtl blocked Dwight's ensuing punt attempt.
It took nine plays to move the ball to the end zone from the Trojans' 34-yard line on the Panthers' ensuing possession -- more than half of the number of plays PBL had on offense in the first half.
After an incomplete pass and a 1-yard run by Schrodt, Coy caught a pass to move the ball to the 21-yard line. Anderson fumbled on a rushing attempt on the next play, but Jalen Hutchcraft recovered to save possession for the Panthers. On second-and-1, Anderson ran the ball to the 8-yard line.
A 2-yard run by Schrodt, a 3-yard plunge by Anderson and a 2-yard keeper by Belt moved the ball to the 1-yard line for fourth-on-goal, on which Schrodt scored his second rushing touchdown with 2:15 left in the third quarter to cut PBL's deficit to 21-20.
"We ran only 15 or 16 plays in the first half, and we kind of got our offense clicking a little bit (in the second half), and then we put up some late touchdowns," Pritchard said. "We scored when we needed to at the end of the game, and got the stops when we needed to as well."
An encroachment penalty and an 18-yard run by Crouch on a sweep to the right side moved the ball from Dwight's own 28-yard line to PBL's 49-yard line on the Trojans' ensuing possession. Edwards ran for two yards before Schrodt tackled Crouch for a 3-yard loss on second down.
On third-and-11, Crouch gained four yards before being tackled by Anderson. On fourth down, Caden Schroeder overthrew Jeremy Kapper, giving PBL the ball back on its own 46-yard line.
Schrodt gained six yards on a screen to the right side. After Anderson ran for a pair of 1-yard gains, Belt ran for a first down, and a facemask penalty by Dwight moved the ball to the Trojans' 37-yard line.
Belt ran for two yards before a reception by Coplea moved the ball to the 9-yard line. PBL was called for a false start, but Anderson ran for 13 yards on first down before Schrodt tallied his third rushing touchdown.
A couple of interceptions by led to rushing touchdowns for Hunter Anderson, including a 64-yard scamper with 4:43 left in the fourth quarter.
"They might have had us beat on both of them, but it's high school football. It's not always going to be on the money," Pritchard said. "Our skill kids got back and made plays on the football. When you have a chance to get a turnover, you've got to take it, and luckily, when the ball was in the air, our kids went and got the football, and that put us on offense, and we were able to punch one in pretty quickly."
Following PBL's go-ahead touchdown, Daniel Gutierrez ran for six yards from Dwight's own 29-yard line, but the Trojans were called for a false start on second-and-4. Crouch ran for three yards on second-and-9 before Drew Diesburg recorded the first of the Panthers' two interceptions with 6:17 left in the game.
From PBL's own 32-yard line, Anderson ran for one yards and Belt ran for three yards on second down before Anderson scampered 64 yards for a touchdown that extended PBL's lead to 35-21.
"They contained our run for most of our game. We hit a few big plays, but we've told our kids all year to stay consistent. Four or five yards a play is not a bad thing running the ball. Eventually, you're going to squirt one and get a 60-yarder. Hunter kept running hard. Our offensive line started opening up a few holes. Coach (Jake) LeClair made a great call saying, 'Hey, let's try a counter here,' and that sprung him," Pritchard said. "It's a great job being able to trust your coaching staff to help you out to get the play calls right, and all I do is just run it in, and the kids execute, and they did a phenomenal job doing that."
Following a 5-yard run by Crouch and a 2-yard run by Edwards, Coplea tallied an interception with 3:12 remaining in the game.
On second-and-8 on the Panthers' ensuing possession, Anderson scampered 54 yards before scoring from four yards out on the next play with 2:11 left in the game.
The Panthers trailed 14-0 at the end of the first quarter before Gunner Belt found Drake Schrodt for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 7:11 left in the second quarter.
The Trojans drove 72 yards through 11 plays, eating 5:58 off the clock.
Crouch ran for 19 yards on the first play from scrimmage. After Wilton Jackman ran for one yards, Crouch ran for another first down, moving the ball to PBL's 39-yard line. Crouch ran for one yard and Jackman ran for three yards before Crouch gained two yards on third down.
Edwards then caught a pass from Schroeder for a first down on fourth-and-4.
Michael Gebauer tackled Gutierrez for a loss of a yard on the next play before Jackman ran for seven yards on second down and Crouch ran for six yards on third down to move the ball to the 14-yard line, from which Crouch ran for the go-ahead touchdown.
Schrodt returned the ensuing kickoff to PBL's own 48-yard line before Jarred Gronsky ran for 21 yards on an option right. A couple of runs by Anderson moved the ball 11 yards to Dwight's 20-yard line before an errant snap moved it back 11 yards.
A false-start penalty moved it back another five yards before an incomplete pass in the end zone intended for Schrodt resulted in a third-and-26.
Anderson gained nine yards on a screen pass before Belt overthrew Coplea on a pass to the end zone on fourth-and-17.
Two plays later, a Crouch run moved the ball to the Trojans' own 49-yard line.
Clayton Robidoux and Coy tackled Gutierrez for a loss of a yard on the next play before an illegal-shift penalty moved the ball back five yards. Crouch was gang tackled for a loss of another five yards before Gutierrez completed a halfback pass to Cade Enerson for a 51-yard gain.
Two plays later, Gutierrez ran eight yards for a touchdown that extended the Trojans’ lead to 14-0 with 6.7 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Ben Busby recovered the ensuing onside kick on PBL's own 49-yard line. Belt ran for a loss of one yard before a false-start penalty moved the ball back another five yards. Anderson ran for four yards on second-and-16 before Coplea gained four yards on a bubble screen.
After Dwight was called for encroachment on fourth-and-8, Coplea was stopped short on a direct-snap keeper, giving the Trojans the ball back on their own 45-yard line.
Gutierrez was tackled by Coy for a loss of one yards before Crouch ran for three yards. Alex Rueck sacked Schroeder on third-and-8, and the Trojans threw an incomplete pass on a fake punt, giving the Panthers the ball back on their own 43-yard line.
Belt ran for nine yards before his touchdown pass to Schrodt.
From there, however, Dwight used 16 plays to drive 65 yards to end the half with a score.
Crouch ran for one yard on the first play of the drive before Gronsky broke up a pass intended for Gutierrez. On third-and-9, Crouch caught a pass for a first down to PBL's 47-yard line.
Crouch ran for three yards and Gutierrez scampered for five yards on second down before Rueck tackled Gutierrez on third-and-2. On fourth-and-3, Gutierrez ran for a first down, moving the ball to the 35-yard line.
Crouch was tripped up by Anderson on the next play before PBL was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty on second-and-15, moving the ball to the Panthers' 25-yard line. Crouch ran for one yard before scampering for six yards on second down.
On third-and-3, Crouch ran for 11 yards. Crouch then ran for no gain on first-and-goal with 21.5 seconds left in the half.
Jackman caught a pass for four yards before the Trojans spiked the ball with 0.7 seconds remaining in the half. Crouch scored on a 3-yard touchdown — his second rushing score of the first half — as time expired in the first half.
"In the first half, their kids came out flying around and really getting into our kids. They were super-physical, kind of like we knew they were going to be," Pritchard said. "They've got a bunch of loads at running back, especially (Carson) Crouch."
By getting their seventh win, early projections indicate that the Panthers will be at home for the first round of the playoffs.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” Schrodt said. “That’d be a great game. Last time, we lost in the playoffs at home, but we’re hoping to get a good win.”
Last year, PBL lost 40-7 to Carlinville at home in the second round of the playoffs after beating Vandalia 33-6 on the road in the first round.
"You want as many home playoff games as possible," Pritchard said. "You never know who you're going to get matched up against. Whoever shows up, I'm sure they're going to be ready to play. Hopefully, we have our kids ready to play. Our kids don't want it to be the only playoff game or the last home game they play. I just know our kids are ready for the playoffs. That's what we play for. Now, everybody's 0-0, and we just hope we can play a four-quarter ballgame in the first round."
PBL 41, Dwight 21
PBL 0 6 14 21 — 41
DWI 14 7 0 0 — 21
D — Crouch 14 run (kick failed)
D — Gutierrez 8 run (Crouch run)
P — Schrodt 34 pass from Belt (kick failed)
D — Crouch 3 run (Edwards kick)
P — Schrodt 4 run (Anderson run)
P — Schrodt 1 run (pass failed)
P — Schrodt 1 run (Coy pass from Belt)
P — Anderson 64 run (Wilson kick)
P — Anderson 4 run (kick failed)