Round 2: IC Catholic vs Du-Pec
The Knights show why they are the Class 3A favorite with a commanding 35-12 win over the Rivermen
Pecatonica - The Du-Pec Rivermen entered the Class 3A 2nd round as the underdog despite having the higher seed over the IC Catholic Knights Saturday afternoon. The serve would hold, as the Knights would stymie the Rivermen offense, and create problems for their defense en route to a 35-12 win to power their way into the quarterfinals.
The very first play of the game looked promising for Du-Pec, as Trenton Taylor took the first handoff of the game and ran for 11 yards and a quick 1st down. However, the Rivermen would only add 4 more yards to their first series before being forced to punt.
IC Catholic took over their first drive at the Rivermen 49 yard line. Malik Gray took the first handoff and was met at the line of scrimmage by the Rivermen defense for a big stop. Dennis Mandala connected with Kareen Parker for a 37 yard gain on the next play. Denzell Gibson would pick up a 4 yard rush, while Jadon Mims would line up at fullback to take the ball the final 6 yards for the score. The PAT kick by Brian Kolodziejczyk was good as IC Catholic took a 7-0 lead with 7:18 to play in the 1st quarter.
The Rivermen would get a nice play, as Hunter Hoffman connected with Bo Seaton for 17 yards to move the ball across midfield, but the Knights defense tightened up and forced Du-Pec into a turnover on downs at the IC Catholic 43 yard line.
Going on another drive, the Knights would find little success in the run game, but the swing routes would exploit their overall speed and cause problems for the Rivermen all day. Mandala would connect with Antonio Richardson for 19 yards, then connect with Parker again for 8 yards. IC Catholic would have 2 different holding penalties set them back, before Mandala had 3 consecutive incomplete passes. He would hit Eric Karner for 7 yards, but the Rivermen would turn the Knights away at the Du-Pec 19 yard line.
The Rivermen would gain just 1 yard on their next series and punt the ball away 1:02 later to give IC Catholic great field position at the Du-Pec 45 yard line at the end of the 1st quarter.
Mandala would connect with Gibson for 10 yards, Richardson for 6 yards, and Gibson again for 7 yards, before he would find Gibson on the left side of the field on another swing route and let him pick up the YAC yards on a 26 yard TD pass. The Kolodziejczyk PAT was good as IC Catholic extended their lead to 14-0 with 10:02 to play in the 2nd quarter.
Du-Pec would get another nice play as Hoffman would connect with Trent Hetland for a 21 yard gain, but the Knights defense would again limit what the Rivermen could do and force a turnover on downs at the IC Catholic 45 yard line.
A 3 yard run by Mandala would be followed by a 52 yard swing pass to Gibson again, as he he would race up the sideline for another score. Another Kolodziejczyk PAT kick was good to give IC Catholic a 21-0 lead with 6:30 left before half.
The Rivermen would get a drive going, starting from their own 34 yard line. Hoffman would connect with Bo Seaton for 19 yards, followed with an 11 yard pass to AJ Mulcahy. Hoffman would pick up 7 yards himself after being flushed out of the pocket. Mulcahy would pick up some tough yards on the ground to give Du-Pec a 1st down. Hoffman would connect with Mulcahy for 5 yards, and then 3 yards. With under a minute to play in the half, Hoffman would be forced out of the pocket to his left with 2 oncoming Knights players in pursuit. He would avoid one diving for his legs before turning up field and throwing to the end zone for an 18 yard TD pass to Trent Hetland with 13 seconds left in the half to put the Rivermen on the board. The 2 point try failed, but they cut the deficit to 21-6 in favor of IC Catholic heading into halftime.
The very first series of the second half would see Mandala connect with Kareen Parker on a post route down the right hash as Parker was off to the races for a 52 yard TD that would extend the IC Catholic lead to 28-6 at the 8:36 mark of the 3rd quarter after the PAT kick by Kolodziejczyk.
IC Catholic would add a Malik Gray TD run with 2:06 left in the 3rd quarter for a 35-6 lead to end the scoring for the Knights on the day.
With 3:52 left in the game, Hoffman would connect with Bo Seaton for a 37 yard TD pass to bring the final score to 35-12.
IC Catholic will advance to play Princeton in the quarterfinals next week in Elmhurst.
Du-Pec ends their season with a 9-2 mark in their best season to date for the program after just 5 seasons.
Leading the way for Du-Pec was Hunter Hoffman who went 15-30 passing for 165 yards and 2 TD's. Bo Seaton had 73 yards receiving with a score, while Trent Hetland picked up 65 yards receiving and a TD. Trenton Taylor would rush for 46 yards, and pick up 23 yards receiving on the day. AJ Mulcahy added 24 yards receiving. The defense was led by Bryce Fitzanko and AJ Mulcahy, with 12 and 9 tackles, respectively.
Hunter Hoffman ends his career with 4,772 yards passing and 63 TD's, placing him 3rd in NUIC history in both categories. His 60.5% career completion percentage is 2nd in NUIC history for QB's with over 300 passing attempts. He completed 369 passes in 610 attempts for an awesome career that saw his junior season cut short due to COVID. What could have been is a question that will always be asked, but the results from what we saw were just amazing, and will live on forever.