Week 4: Galena vs Stockton
Defensive showdown in Stockton
Pirates defeat Blackhawks 28-14 in rivalry matchup
STOCKTON – The 121st edition of Northwest Illinois’ greatest football rivalry lived up to its billing on a warm September evening at John O’Boyle Field as the Galena Pirates (2-2) matched up against the Stockton Blackhawks (1-3) in a 28-14 battle on Friday, Sept. 17.
“The score was not indicative of the way we played,” said Matt Leitzen, Stockton football coach. “It was a lot closer than the scoreboard shows.” Leitzen was accurate as the game was a defensive showdown for most of the game.
“These are the games you loved to play when you were a kid,” said Leitzen. “It is Galena, it is a rivalry and we knew we were going to get their best shot. We both had something to prove and both probably feel that we are better than our record.”
Leitzen’s team has been battling injuries throughout the early part of the season as well which caused some players to have limited reps in positions that they played during the game.
The start of the game was sloppy for the Pirates as they opened up on offense, however faced a 4th and 30 from their own 24 yard line after two lengthy penalties. “Early in the game, we had too many costly penalties that put us in second and long and third and long possessions,” said Ed Freed, Galena head coach.
Stockton was able to move the ball on their first drive behind a stable of running backs including Connor Vincent, Dustin Oppold, and Jace Phillips. A one-yard quarterback sneak by Caleb Mammoser gave the Blackhawks the early 6-0 lead with 4:30 left in the opening quarter.
“They got on top early and that is not something that we wanted to do,” said Freed. “We didn’t want to give momentum up.” The Pirates recovered an onside kick at their 43-yard line, but the offense stalled after a false start on 3rd and 4.
The defensive battle continued into the late stages of the first half, however a lengthy punt return by Ethan Hefel set the Pirates up with the ball at the Stockton 11 yard-line. A 14-yard quarterback keeper around the left gave the Pirates the 7-6 lead with 1:14 left in the half. “That touchdown was big for us to get momentum,” said Freed.
The Pirates were able to return on offesne with 6.5 seconds left in the half after an incomplete pass by the Blackhawks on third down stopped the clock.
A pass from Hefel to Brady Schemehorn gave the Pirates the 14-6 lead and momentum entering the second half.
“Momentum is huge,” said Freed. “To get that touchdown right before half, that was a huge play. It was a great throw, we had time and Brady made a great catch. It gave us a little separation, but not enough, because we knew Stockton was going to keep coming at us.”
“My team probably heard some things that they didn’t like at half time, but I am happy with how they responded,” said Leitzen. At the start of the second half, the Blackhawks embarked on a 12 play drive that ate up six minutes in the quarter, however a stop at the Pirate 6-yard line by the stingy Galena defense halted the drive and gave the ball back to the Pirates.
A fumble two plays into Galena’s next offensive possession gave the Blackhawks the ball at the 8-yard line, and once again the Pirates defense held their own. An incomplete pass by Mammoser gave the Pirates the ball back on their own three-yard line. In the shadow of their own goal posts, the Pirates tried to find daylight, but were unsuccessful after their ensuing drive was halted by an illegal motion penalty on third down.
“If our defense plays like that the rest of the year, I think we are going to be fine,” said Leitzen.
“We lost the field possession war in the second half,” said Freed. “Our defense came up with huge stops and offensively we had to grind it out, which was tough.”
The Blackhawks were able to find the end zone after a short five play drive, including a reception by Ian Broshous and runs by Luke and Vincent set up a Blackhawk first and goal from the five-yard line. “For as poorly as we ended the second half, we came out and did some things right,” said Leitzen. “We swapped the field position battle.” Luke was able to run in for the touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 with about 9:00 left in the game.
The Pirates were forced to punt on their next drive after three consecutive incomplete passes to give the Blackhawks the ball at their own 32 yard line. An interception by Hefel gave the Pirates the ball right back at the Stockton 39-yard line with an opportunity to score. “Ethan is such a gamer,” said Freed. “He has had a great career. He has made so many great plays in crunch time. He is one of those players that steps up.” On second and six, the Blackhawks jumped offsides to give the Pirates a manageable third and one. Hefel converted on a quarterback sneak. Two plays later, Hefel connected with Schemehorn for a 28-yard passing touchdown to give the Pirates a 21-14 lead with 5:29 left in the game. “We had an opportunity to be more aggressive,” said Freed. “Ethan and Brady connected again and had some explosive plays that were the defense.”
The Blackhawks would get the ball back with five minutes left, and were unable to convert on 4th-and-10 giving the ball back to the Pirates with just over three minutes left in the game. The Pirates were also unable to convert and punted the ball back to their opponents on 4th-and-18 with 1:00 left on the clock.
Stockton converted one first down during their final drive. On second and ten from the 38-yard line, Mammoser’s pass was picked off by Schemehorn who ran the ball back 45 yards for a touchdown to seal the win for the visitors. “It wasn’t a pretty game,” said Freed. “But all that matters is the final score.
The Pirates next take on the Forreston Cardinals (3-1) in a homecoming matchup at Coach Korte Field at 7 p.m.
“We needed this win to get back to .500 and they are a good team,” said Freed. “It is a big game for us.”
Stockton will hit the road and take on East Dubuque (1-3) in a pivotal game that could determine if either will make the playoffs.
By the Numbers
Galena trails the all-time series 53-65-3.
Stockton leads the all-time regular season series with a record of 60-51-3 and the all-time playoff series at 5-2.
The game is the most played series in Northwest Illinois and the most-played contest against a single opponent for both schools.
Galena has only beaten Warren (58) more than it has defeated Stockton, however Galena has lost to Stockton more times (65) than any other team (Other teams that Galena has been defeated by at least 20 times are: Aquin -24, Le-Win and Savanna H.S.- 22).
Galena has won back-to-back regular season matches for the first time since 2009-2010.
The game was also the first regular season matchup between the two teams in Stockton since 2010, which Galena won that game 25-15.
The Pirates are 17-2 against Stockton in the regular season since 1995, however Stockton owns a 3-2 playoff advantage during that timeframe.
Ed Freed moves to 10-4 all-time against Stockton, the highest winning percentage of any coach in the rivalry over the past 60 years; only Coach Munson of Stockton owns an all-time higher win percentage (4-1).
Freed also owns a 9-1 record in the regular season against the Blackhawks, the highest winning percentage of all-time by a coach with at least 3 games in the series.
Stockton has started its season 1-3 for the second consecutive year, the first back to back 1-3 starts since the team started 1-3 in four consecutive seasons from 1998-2001.
The 42 points scored in the matchup is the most since the IHSA playoff matchup in 2013, which Stockton won 34-28.