Grey Ghosts make believers of Irish

Justin Miller
On line: The Grey Ghost front line faces off against Peoria Notre Dame Friday at Taylor Field. IVC won, 28-0.

Illinois Valley Central’s defense, which was questionable coming into the season, was rock solid in the home opener, silencing all doubters.

On Friday, the Grey Ghost varsity football team played the Peoria Notre Dame Fighting Irish in

IVC’s first season game at Taylor Field.

The game kicked off with the Ghosts’ defense setting the tempo and forcing the Irish to a three and out.

On IVC’s first offensive possession, they pounded the ball down the field with strong running from halfbacks Jake Elias and James Lauber, and then scored on an 8-yard run by Justin McCallister. The extra point attempt was not good.

After another three and out by the Irish, who would accumulate just 80 yards for the game, IVC drove the ball to Notre Dame’s 24 yard line before they were stopped on a fourth and one conversion.

In the ensuing Irish possession, IVC defensive back Luke Hall caught an interception that was called back on pass interference. 

On the next play, Hall caught another, but this time it was not called back.

“I was disappointed when I heard it was called back,” Hall said, “But in the end, it didn’t matter. I guess they didn’t learn after the first time.”

The Ghosts’ next possession stalled, as they failed on another fourth down conversion at the Irish 34 yard line.

The Irish were stopped yet again when they got the ball back and were forced to punt, something that became common for them through the night.

Led by the strong running of Elias and quarterback Chris Razo, the Ghosts drove the ball into Notre Dame territory and scored on a 24-yard field goal by Razo.

The Irish would then have another three and out that was capped off with a sack by IVC defensive end Jake Switzer.

IVC then committed its first turnover of the night, as Razo was intercepted by Notre Dame defensive back Luke Garrison.

The Grey Ghost defense did not blink an eye, promptly returning to the field and forcing a fumble, which was recovered by defensive lineman Thomas Foley.

IVC’s offense then ran the ball down to the Irish 9 yard line, where Lauber scored on a 9-yard stretch run, in which he put a juke move on an Irish defender that would make National Football

League legend Barry Sanders jealous. Razo’s point-after attempt was no good.

Coming out for the second half, IVC received the kickoff but turned the ball over on a Razo interception to Irish defensive back Mike Habecker.

The IVC defense did what they did the last time their offense turned the ball over — forced a fumble. This time, it was recovered by linebacker Kolbe Weller.

On the first play after the Irish turnover, Elias went 44 yards for a touchdown, running over an open field Irish tackler.

“I saw a big hole at the first line. When I got through it, I cut to the sideline,” Elias said. “When I saw that guy coming at me, I just threw him out of the way.”

Razo’s extra point attempt succeeded.

The Irish offense then took the field and was stopped on fourth and seven by a batted pass by Switzer.

On the next IVC drive, after an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Notre Dame, Lauber came up limping and left the game with a knee injury.

Lauber is still expected to play Friday and felt better after the game.

The Ghosts then drove the ball deep by good running from Elias and Razo and scored on a 7-yard run by Razo. The two-point conversion failed.

The Irish would then have its longest drive of the night, driving the ball all the way to the IVC 1 yard line, and had first and goal there.

On the first play at first and goal, Irish running back Garrison was stuffed for no gain.

On their second play from the 1 yard line, Habecker was sacked by linebacker Dan Semtner.

After a delay of game on the Irish, they completed a pass for a 13-yard loss to make it fourth and goal from the 23 yard line in a series that started at the 1 yard line.

On their last play of the game, the Irish’s Habecker was intercepted by Hall, his second interception of the night.

IVC’s second team then came in to run out the clock and close the book on their home opener, beating the Peoria Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 28-0.

Head coach Tim Heinz, who is a former coach for the Peoria Notre Dame football team, said after the game, “I was happy with the offense, even though it was a bit sloppy. The defense played outstanding. I’m happy with the game.”

“They were what we expected, what we thought they were,” Heinz said of Notre Dame. “They have a tough front seven and like to pound the ball.”

IVC’s next game is at home against Peoria Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday.