When Polo and River Ridge both announced that they were leaving the NUIC for 8 man football, the talk quickly shifted to each team being at the top of 8 man football just from coming the well reputed, rugged NUIC conference.
It didn't take long for both teams to climb into the top 5 of the standings. River Ridge had a week loss to Winfield-Mt Union, IA. On the other side, the Marcos stormed through the season undefeated. These two met up in week 8, where Polo came away the victor 34-8, and River Ridge took on the defending 8 man state champ Milford Cissna Park, and came away with a loss there. However, here we are with both teams winning through the bracket to the semifinals.
This time around, the Marcos would take a 32-20 lead into halftime, but came out in the 2nd half and walked away with a 64-20 win over River Ridge to make their first appearance in a state championship game in school history. They will play the winner of Milford Cissna Park and Flangan-Cornell Woodland.
After opening the game with punts from both sides, Polo would get on the board first with a 77 yard touchdown connection from Tucker Mumford to Jace Coffey. This put the Marcos up 6-0 with 8:12 remaining in the 1st quarter.
After forcing another Wildcat punt, Polo would get to the endzone on the very next play after Alex Davies took a handoff off left tackle and had nothing but green grass in front of him for an 86 yard touchdown run. Polo would go up 12-0 with 1:49 left in the 1st quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, River Ridge would fumble the ball away and the Marcos recovered. On the very next play, Tucker Mumford kept a QB keeper off the right side of the line for a 16 yard touchdown run to put Polo up 18-0 with 1:38 left in the 1st quarter.
The Wildcats would go 3 and out on their next drive, and be forced to punt. On the punt the Marcos would fumble, and Caleb Rhodes was there to fall on it for River Ridge at the Polo 26 yard line. River Ridge QB Bryton Engle would take a keeper off the right edge and get down to the 1 yard line, and on the next play Rhodes would capitalize on a 1 yard dive for the score. This would cut the lead to 18-6 in favor of Polo with 10:30 left in the 1st half.
A big kick return by Polo would set them up at the River Ridge 24 yard line. Mumford would get the first 3 yards, then Coffey would get the last 21 yards for the touchdown as Polo increased its lead to 24-6 with 9:34 left in the half.
On their next possession, the Wildcats would start from their own 35 yard line, but would get to the 50 yard line quickly. Then Engle would connect with Sam Whitmer on the left sideline for a 50 yard touchdown pass that would close the gap to 24-12 with 7:32 to go until half.
Polo would take over from their onw 49 yard line after an onside kick attempt failed. On the next play, Bryton Engle would recover a fumbly by Mumford on a QB keeper at the Polo 48 yard line. A run for a loss of a yard and a penalty for 5 yards would back the Wildcats up to their own 46 yard line. Engle would drop back and found Rhodes for a 54 yard touchdown pass down the left seam. The two point try was successful for the first time in the game between both teams as River brought the game to a 24-20 Polo advantage with 6:20 until halftime.
With 58 seconds left in the half, Coffey would add a 5 yard run to bring the halftime score to 32-20 in favor of Polo.
Opening the 2nd half Mumford would take a keeper off the right edge for a 39 yard touchdown to put Polo up 40-20, which turned out to be the final dagger as the Marcos kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard in the second half. Polo would score 3 more touchdowns in the second half to bring the final to 64-20.
River Ridge ends its season with an 8-4 record. Three of their four losses have come to the top 2 ranked teams in Illinois. Polo improves to 11-0 and will play in the state championship game next Friday at Monmouth College.
Congratulations to both teams on a great season, and for representing the NUIC in 8 man football and showing the rest of the state why the NUIC is a great conference. For those questioning the 8 man game, it is still played on a 100 yard field, and the width is narrowed to 40 yards. Outside of that, it is still football with big hits and great plays. I would encourage anyone to get out and watch a game.