Sometimes you need a break or two to go your way in order to advance in the postseason.
Oblong High School's football team thought they might be getting one of those breaks in Saturday's IHSA Class 1A Playoff Game, when Salt Fork starting quarterback Taylor Kirby left the game due to injury at the start of the second quarter and did not return.
However, that break went the other way, as Salt Fork backup signal caller Jacob Hughes accounted for three of his team's four touchdowns, enabling Salt Fork to pull away from Oblong, 27-6, spoiling the Panthers' chance to make more history in their first-ever playoff game.
"We had seen him on film and knew he threw the ball well," OHS head coach Travis Reider said. "We had some missed assignments that led to some big plays and they were physical up front. They took it to us in the trenches. They are a very nice football team."
Oblong was in the game for quite a while, but the usually high-powered Panther offense could not get in gear.
The two teams played a scoreless first quarter and the first half of the second quarter was more of the same. However, Salt Fork drew first blood in the second quarter, when Cole Taylor scored on a 16-yard run at the 5:37 mark and Austin Ringis added the extra point to give the Storm a 7-0 lead they would not relinquish.
Just over three minutes later, Hughes tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Nick Hedges with 2:09 left, which gave Salt Fork a 13-0 lead at halftime.
Every time we would get moving, we had a penalty to shoot ourselves in the foot," Reider said. "On our opening drive we were moving the ball well, then we had two false start penalties in a row. That made it first-and-20 and three plays later, we are punting. That's how it was all day."
Only down by two scores, Oblong still had a fighting chance, but two more Salt Fork touchdowns in the third quarter put the game out of reach.
Hughes scored on a one-yard plunge with 7:07 remaining in the third, then completed the two-point conversion pass to Luke Maddox for a 21-0 advantage, then Hughes scored from two-yards out with 4:27 to play to make the score 27-0.
Oblong would get on the scoreboard with 4:05 left in the game, when Anthony Johnson connected with Keaton Neeley for a 50-yard touchdown pass to avoid the shutout.
The six points were the fewest scored by the Panthers all season, as they had not been held below 14 in any game until Saturday.
"We didn't want to go out that way, but I couldn't be prouder of our kids," Reider said. "We wanted to make some noise in the playoffs, but it didn't work out that way. But, we still achieved some of our goals. We made the playoffs and we had a winning record. I can't say enough about our kids and their hard work. They left it all out on the field and I couldn't be prouder."
For the game, Salt Fork outgained Oblong 373-214 in total yards, which was only the third time this year the Panthers had fewer yards than their opponent.
Johnson led Oblong with a 9-21 passing performance for 136 yards and a touchdown, along with 59 yards rushing on 12 carries. Neeley caught one pass for 50 yards and a touchdown, while running seven times for just six yards. Gerald Richardson added two catches for 47 yards, Chase Mendenhall caught three passes for 15 yards, Collin Meese had two receptions for 13 yards, Logan Goodwin caught one pass for 11 yards and ran three times for six yards and Kurtis Fleek ran once for three yards.
Hughes topped Salt Fork with 93 yards and a touchdown on 5-8 passing, along with 28 yards rushing and two touchdowns in 12 attempts, while Taylor ran for 95 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Clayton Fauver posted 70 yards rushing in 16 attempts and caught two passes for 46 yards, Seth McLain ran three times for 48 yards and had a 12-yard reception, Kirby ran for 27 yards on eight carries and completed one pass for 10 yards before he got hurt and Hedges had a 10-yard touchdown reception.
The loss ended the stellar careers for the OHS senior class, including Johnson, Neeley, Richardson, Meese, and Mendenhall, along with Gabe Shonk, Kurt Knollenberg, Colton Davis, B.J. Venetta, Tucker Inboden and Jordan Douglass.
"They are a great group of kids that have worked hard and done a tremendous job," Reider said. "They have done everything I've asked of them these last two years and I can't say enough about them. They will be sorely missed."
Despite the significant losses, the future still looks bright for Oblong football.
"We've got some nice kids coming back and coming in next year," Reider said. "We return all of our offensive linemen but one and we have a lot of juniors that will be seniors that I think will step up. We still have plenty of talent here."
Oblong finished the season with a 6-4 record. Salt Fork (9-1) advances to play at third-seeded Carrollton, who defeated fellow Little Illini Conference squad Cumberland 25-0, in the second round of the Class 1A Playoffs Saturday.
2012 IHSA Class 1A Football Playoffs
Oblong 0 0 0 6 - 6
Salt Fork 0 13 14 0 - 27
SFHS 2Q (5:37) Cole Taylor 16 run (Austin Ringis kick)
SFHS 2Q (2:09) Jacob Hughes 10 pass to Nick Hedges (kick failed)
SFHS 3Q (7:07) Hughes 1 run (Hughes pass to Luke Maddox)
SFHS 3Q (4:27) Hughes 2 run (run failed)
OHS 4Q (4:05) Anthony Johnson 50 pass to Keaton Neeley (run failed)
First Downs 8 14
Rushes-Yds 24-78 52-268
Passes-Yds 9-21-136 6-10-105
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-Yds 8-60 8-65
Rushing - (OHS) Anthony Johnson 12-59, Keaton Neeley 7-6, Logan Goodwin 3-6, Collin Meese 1-4, Kurtis Fleek 1-3. (SFHS) Cole Taylor 13-95, Clayton Fauver 16-70, Seth McLain 3-48, Jacob Hughes 12-28, Taylor Kirby 8-27.
Passing - (OHS) Anthony Johnson 9-21-136-1TD-0INT. (SFHS) Jacob Hughes 5-8-93-1TD-0INT; Taylor Kirby 1-2-12-0TD-1INT.