SENECA – Kewanee’s longest drive in terms of time, and its second-longest in terms of distance, came at a bad time for Seneca on Saturday afternoon.
After getting the ball at their own 32-yard line down by seven points, the Boilermakers chewed up all but a few seconds of the 5:45 remaining on the clock. They picked up four first downs and got so deep into Fighting Irish territory, they could not gain another.
Kewanee did not reach the end zone, and after getting as far as the Irish 9 yardline to set up first and goal, it did not gain another yard. Irish’s Austin Applebee sacked Kewanee quarterback David Washburn on fourth down completing a stand by the Irish defense that sealed a 21-14 victory in the first round of the Class 3A football playoffs.
“I widened out a little bit and I saw that there was a wing back and the tackle, and I knew that they were gonna try to get me. I widened out, and I just blew past them, got a clean shot,” Applebee said. “I knew they were gonna pass it, and I wanted the sack.”
The final Kewanee drive nearly resulted in a quick turnover on downs, but on fourth-and-2, Washburn passed to Jared Nimrick for a 7-yard gain. Kewanee then faced third-and-11 and Washburn threw an incomplete pass, but pass interference was called on the Irish for a first down. Gains of 16 and 14 yards on Kewanee’s next two plays set up first and goal from the 9.
The Boilermakers ran on first down for no gain, and a Washburn second-down pass fell incomplete. On third down, Wasburn pitched to Ryan Hicks, who then attempted a pass into the end zone that was batted away by Irish defender Baley Lejawa. Applebee’s sack on the next play, along with one Irish kneeldown, sealed Seneca’s first playoff victory since it defeated Montini 28-25 in the second round in 2000.
“We were bending, but we weren’t gonna break,” Seneca’s Bo Taylor said. “And I think everybody stayed positive that whole last drive. [Kewanee] made a couple big plays in key downs, but we held them.”
Taylor contributed directly to three of the five touchdowns. He scored the first on a 19-yard run late in the first quarter. The second was scored by the Kewanee defense when Boilermakers linebacker Jared Nimrick stripped Taylor in the backfield, picked up the ball and ran 43 yards into the end zone.
Kewanee scored again later in the second quarter when a 1-yard Washburn touchdown plunge capped a 12-play, 71-yard drive. Taylor responded with a 2-yard run into the end zone with 45 seconds left in the first half, though a missed extra point kept Kewanee ahead 14-13.
The Irish trailed by a point at halftime even though they had doubled Kewanee in total offense (164-82) and their offense controlled the ball for 16:20. Kewanee did not pick up a first down until nearly five minutes into the second quarter.
“We didn’t feel like we needed to make a whole lot of changes,” Seneca coach Ted O’Boyle said. “A lot of it was just, ‘You gotta play with heart, you gotta play with determination in this game in the playoffs,’ and we were able to do that in the second half.”
Seneca’s first two series of the second half started deep in its own territory and resulted in punts. The third began at the Kewanee 35 and produced the winning touchdown. Tommy Lovett scored from 1-yard out with 8:34 to play, and a two-point conversion pass from Zach Russell to Applebee completed the scoring.
Now 8-2, the Irish will face 7-3 Robeson on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Gately Stadium in Chicago.