POSTSEASON BOUND: Macomb tops Illini West
MACOMB — Facing a win and in the postseason game and trying to play a playoff game for the first time since the 2012 season, it was going to take big plays from multiple players and a complete, four quarter effort.
The Macomb football team was able to get all of the above, rallying with a late touchdown to top Illini West 36-28 and clinch a spot in the playoffs.
“We were in a dogfight and this year those close games have not gone our way but our guys held their heads and battled to the end and made the plays they needed to,” Macomb coach Tanner Horrell said.
It was a physical, back and forth game all night but it was the Bombers who made the night’s biggest plays in the final two minutes, getting the victory.
“This team has worked so hard throughout the year, we have dogs everywhere on this team, it’s a lot of hard work that has paid off, we got to keep the momentum we got from this game into the playoffs,” Macomb’s Langdon Allen said.
It was Allen who made two of the biggest plays of the night, hauling in a pair of interceptions, the second being the last big play that sealed the win.
Allen’s first interception was also key, swinging momentum in favor of Macomb.
The Bomber stepped in front of an Illini West pass for an interception, giving the Bombers back the ball, trailing 22-20 early in the fourth.
“Coach believed in me, we had a player struggling a bit and that happens, you don’t feel it some days but coach had trust in me to go out and play,” Allen said. “The outside receiver I was on ran a slant and I started to go with the slant but then I saw the running back, who is a great player, come around on a wheel route and I was able to plant at the right time then I made my way back to cover him and get there in time to make the play.”
Macomb did not waste time taking advantage as Jack Duncan hit JT Jeter in stride for a 66-yard touchdown, putting the Bombers ahead 28-22 with 11:53 to go in the game.
“Langdon has been begging to play defense and we gave him that chance in the second half and he rolled with it and made two huge athletic interceptions,” Horrell said. “That first one turned the game because they had momentum on their side and that second one sealed the deal.”
But Illini West would not go away.
The Chargers methodically went down the field, tying the game with 2:27 left on a short touchdown run.
But Macomb’s defense would respond, shutting down the ensuing two-point conversion try, keeping the game tied.
“They played so hard but we were ready for it. In the first half, with those mistakes that we made but we fought it back in the second half,” linebacker/running back Max Ryner said.
With the game tied and the season potentially on the line, Macomb put the ball in Ryner’s hands to try to get the win in regulation.
Ryner delivered with carries of 31 and 12 yards, moving the ball from the 20 to Illini West’s 37.
“It gives me so much pride and confidence, I love it when coach puts his faith in me, as long as I have faith in myself, we keep it going,” Ryner said.
Duncan would then hit Allen with a pair of passes, then find JT Jeter to put the ball at the 15.
After that, Ryner would carry Charger tacklers inside the five on a 12-yard run then put the ball inside the one with under a minute to go.
Duncan would finish the drive, sneaking the ball over the goal line, then hitting Jeter on the two-point try to put Macomb up 36-28 wth 48.8 left.
“Before that, that two-point stop to keep it a tie game was huge, it allowed us to really run the ball and not force us to go no huddle because we knew even if we didn’t score we would be OK,” Horrell said. “Max ran his tail off and the line blocked up front, we need some more of that next week.”
Ryner finished with 155 yards rushing on 20 carries.
“It feels amazing, I’ve been injured most of the season, I just came back, I used to have a thing on my shoulder and that stunted me but I finally got it off me today,” he said.
Even with the score, the work was not done.
Illini West picked up a first down, then went deep down the field, only to find Allen for his second interception.
“He did a different release than he had done all drive,” Allen said. “That whole drive they had he had done a slower release, this one he sprinted off so I figured he was going deep.
“I took my eyes off him to look at the quarterback sure enough he was staring deep at him, so I turned and made a play on the ball.”
The win improved Macomb to 6-3 and sends the Bombers to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012 season.
The Bombers will learn their playoff opponent on Saturday night during the IHSA Postseason Pairings Show.
“It’s exciting, it will be a lot more relaxing to not have to wait to 4:30 to see if we’re in and these guys have earned it,” Horrell said.