SENECA – A few big Bo Taylor runs and a 5-1 edge in turnovers powered Seneca to a 12-7 win over Peotone in Interstate Eight Conference crossover football late Friday night.
Trailing by a point and facing fourth-and-1 from their own 24 as the fourth quarter started, the Irish tried some trickery. Taylor lined up in the shotgun, but the snap went to upman Zach Russell, who was stuffed for no gain.
Seneca got the ball right back when Taylor recovered a Brandon Wenzel fumble on second down. On third down, Taylor went right on a sweep needing 7 yards. Just when it appeared he would get none, or close to it, he emerged from a crowd and raced upfield for a 79-yard touchdown run. The kick was blocked but Seneca led for the first time at 12-7 with 10:40 to play.
"To be honest with you, I don't know," Taylor said when asked what happened on the play, "because I had my eyes shut the whole time with my head down trying to bull, and then I kind of stumbled forward and I wasn't touched, and then I just ran."
Peotone went three-and-out before punting on each of its next two drives. It was still poised to get the ball back with over 4 minutes to play because the Irish did the same, but Peotone's Jake Rapson fumbled the second Irish punt. Devin Loe recovered for the Irish, who were able to burn nearly three minutes off the clock before turning the ball over on downs deep in Peotone territory.
On second-and-14 from the Blue Devils' 3, Peotone quarterback Wenzel was intercepted by Casey Pifer. Two kneel-downs sealed Seneca's first 2-0 start since 2000.
Pifer's interception was the fifth turnover forced by the Irish defense, which held the Blue Devils to 167 total yards. Peotone rushed for 85 yards on 35 carries and completed five of its 19 pass attempts.
"Outstanding," Seneca head coach and offensive play-caller Ted O'Boyle said of the defense. "Put in some bad positions all night. I already said, the o-coordinator made a terrible call down inside his 30. I'm still looking for that guy. I put the 'D' in a bad spot, and they came back for us, picked us up. That's the sign of a good team. We got a long way to go, but we're just starting to maybe turn the corner."
The first Irish touchdown was made possible when Russell intercepted Wenzel midway through the third. Penalties put the Irish in a third-and-21 situation on the resultant drive, but Taylor broke off a 55-yard run on a quarterback sweep, to the Blue Devils’ 6.
After a 4-yard loss on first down, the Irish went back to Taylor on a sweep. He appeared to have little room to maneuver to the left, but he cut upfield between two defenders and found the end zone on a 10-yard run. The extra point kick was blocked, leaving Peotone ahead 7-6 with 3:46 left in the third.
"Big, big weight off the linemen's chest, to have a kid in the backfield who can run like that," Irish lineman Brad Wyss said of Taylor. "It's a lot of help."
Both teams used a turnover to get deep in the opponent's territory once during an otherwise quiet first half. Only Peotone capitalized.
Austin Applebee sacked Blue Devils quarterback Brandon Wenzel, who fumbled, and Matt Johnson recovered at the Peotone 27 with 1:49 left in the first quarter. After a Tommy Lovett run for a first down, Seneca stalled, and Applebee pulled a 32-yard field goal try left on the first play of the second half.
A Peotone punt late in the second quarter led to a Peotone touchdown. Irish returner Casey Pifer had the ball glance off his chest as he tried to catch it, with the Blue Devils' Issac Battiato recovering at the Irish 26. Five plays later, Wenzel rolled left and completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Trever Zeibert. Peotone converted a third-and-21 early in the third when Rapson caught a screen pass from Wenzel and gained 53 yards, but Seneca held from there and forced a turnover on downs.