Our Game of the Week brings us to Savanna, Illinois where the South Division rivalry features the EPC Wildcatz visiting the West Carroll Thunder. West Carroll has started off 2019 2-0, defeating Galena in a close fought game 22-20, and Dakota 24-12. EPC is 0-2 with losses to both undefeated Le-Win and Du-Pec. Last week the Catz lost to Du-Pec in a heart breaking overtime loss that ended on their own goal line. The Thunder are seeking an undefeated start to the season, while EPC looks to get into the win column in this week's match-up.
Defense was king in Friday's night match-up highlighting both teams tough nose defense. The lack of consistent offensive drives haunted the Thunder and Catz Friday night. In the 1st quarter, both teams had unproductive possessions resulting in punts before the Thunder had a sustained drive that pushed them deep inside the Catz territory before a pass from Derek Tracy was intercepted by Carson Clouse. EPC took over after the interception on the 28 yard line but couldn't convert on the turnover and was forced to punt after a disappointing 7 play drive. The Catz punt was a short one resulting in great field position for West Carroll on the EPC 44 yard line.
West Carroll seemed to have the momentum at this point after forcing EPC to give the ball right back to the Thunder. West Carroll chewed up 26 yards on the ground before trying to catch the defense off guard by calling in a pass play. EPC's defensive back, Braydin Preston read the route perfectly and was able to pick off the pass on the 33 yard line. Three plays later, Lane Christians had a huge 21 yard dash to get EPC into scoring position. With the 2nd quarter winding down, Christians threw a jump ball to wide receiver Braydin Preston in the endzone, but was unable to secure the ball because the Thunder's defensive back also had his hands on it, and it was ruled to have been bobbled and not secured for a touchdown. With just 18 seconds remaining on the 2nd quarter clock, Christians passed to Logan Krell for a 10 yard gain bringing the Catz to the 1 yard line. The Catz called on Travis Kaney to punch the ball into the endzone making the score 6-0 EPC. Christians pass to Clouse was caught for the 2 point conversion. The score was now 8-0 with 3 seconds remaining in the 2nd quarter. West Carroll decided to take a knee and end the first half.
In the 3rd quarter, both teams had the ball twice and were unable to put together consistent drives resulting in either a punt, or a turnover on downs. However, in the 4th quarter, the Thunder were threatening after a huge 41 yard pass play from QB Derek Tracy to Colton Ballard. Two rushing attempts later, the Thunder put the ball in the air again, and this time it was stymied by linebacker Carson Clouse. The senior intercepted the ball on the 36 yard line. Little time remained in the game for the Thunder to try and force a turnover and score. EPC was able to pick up two first downs and ice the clock and lock up their first win of the season.
Defense and turnovers was the theme of the game. West Carroll gained only 69 yards on the ground and 81 yards through the air (41 of those on one play). EPC had just 93 yards on the ground and 48 yards via the air. EPC's three interceptions were the key to their victory as all three occurred when the Thunder had momentum and drives developing.
This win secured EPC's first victory of the season, improving them to 1-2 on the year. The loss for the Thunder drops them to 2-1. Next week West Carroll will travel to Amboy (0-3) for another NUIC South showdown. EPC will host Milledgeville (0-3,) which is also a South division match-up.