3 takeaways from Sacred Heart-Griffin football's playoff win over Columbia

Bill Welt
State Journal-Register
Sacred Heart-Griffin's Cory West (45) comes off a block to wrap up Normal U-High’s Bronson Moeller (1) on a rush in the second half at Ken Leonard Field in Springfield, Ill., Friday, October 15, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Sacred Heart-Griffin junior linebacker Cory West snuffed out the quarterback and turned toward head coach Ken Leonard on the sideline. 

“Up over here on the 20, I hit the quarterback and I was like, ‘That’s for you, Coach,’” West said. 

West and the Cyclones defense stonewalled Columbia’s efficient rushing game after halftime and limited the Eagles to just 10 offensive yards in the third quarter en route to a 49-13 first-round playoff victory at Ken Leonard Field on a rainy Friday night. 

No. 3-seeded SHG (9-1) will visit No. 11 Bethalto Civic Memorial in the second round of the Class 4A bracket. Civic Memorial (7-3) edged No. 6 Quincy Notre Dame 20-17 in its playoff opener. 

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“We kind of woke up, we got after it and we started to play like we have for most of the year,” Leonard said of the defense. “That’s good. I think they (Columbia) took a lot of chances and got some big first downs. They did a good job. You got to give them credit, they played us tough.” 

SHG's defense played tough 

Columbia, the No. 14 seed, accumulated 142 offensive yards in the first half, including 125 on the ground primarily from quarterback Dominic Voegele. 

Voegele scored on a 53-yard keeper to trail 14-6 with 3 minutes, 13 seconds left in the second quarter. But the SHG defense didn’t allow another first down until early in the fourth quarter. 

“Once they pulled that touchdown, I just kept running through my head and running through my head, ‘We cannot let them score again. We cannot let them score again,’” West said. “I just kept going through my head and I promised my coach I was going to make sure I get into the backfield, so I brought the team together just telling them, ‘We cannot let them score. It’s 0-0 right now. We got to keep going.'” 

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Voegele eventually found the end zone again on a 46-yard run, but the Eagles (5-5) trailed 42-13 with 6:20 remaining.  

West and junior teammate Hudson McMann each garnered eight tackles. Junior running back/linebacker Richard Jackson had seven. 

“Defensively we had to come out and we had to play hard,” Jackson said. “We knew they had a tough running back and tough quarterback at the same time that can get out and run, so we had to get on it. They came out and they held the ball for eight minutes (on the opening possession), so that showed you the type of offense they had.” 

SHG has a stable of backs 

Jackson broke the scoreless tie with a 7-yard TD run at the 11:42 mark in the second quarter. He lifted the Cyclones ahead 21-6 by halftime with another short run following Voegele’s long sprint to the end zone. 

Jackson finished with six carries for 53 yards and two TDs. 

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“I don’t get to run a lot, but I’m doing whatever I need to do to help my team win,” Jackson said. “It’s good. I love it. I feel so much joy when I run the ball.” 

Junior running back Bill Sanders totaled seven carries for 49 yards while junior quarterback Ty Lott and senior fullback Brett Puckel combined for 70 yards and one TD. 

Lott also completed 22 of 27 passing attempts for 216 yards and three TDs. Junior reciever KeShon Singleton had seven catches for 68 yards and two TDs while junior Madixx Morris also had seven receptions for 67 yards and one TD.  

Morris hauled in a 29-yard TD catch over a defender to take a 28-6 advantage with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter. 

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“Their defense gave us a run for our money in the first half,” Jackson said. “We fixed our mistakes. We executed the right way when we came out and we did what we’re supposed to do.” 

Columbia had a gutsy effort

Voegele ran for 166 yards and two TDs for the Eagles. He also threw for 51 yards on 8 of 15 passing. 

“Especially Dom our quarterback, we felt like we had an advantage with them having five in the box and spreading them out a little bit,” Columbia senior running back Kyle McConachie said.  "If you give us a hole, I feel like me and Dom can get some yards and get the ball moving. I feel like we did that on the first few drives.” 

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The Eagles reached the playoffs after starting the season 0-2. 

“The guys were awesome,” McConachie said. “It’s so fun being a senior and being able to hang out with the little guys and teach them the ways and everything. It was really cool.” 

Contact Bill Welt: bill.welt@sj-r.com, Twitter.com/BillWelt