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Plano Holds Off ACC
Reapers To Play For Second Straight 3A Crown
By Bill Lidinsky
Playoff games usually don’t come easy in high school football, especially when your team is playing for the right to advance to the state championship.
Such was the case for the Plano Reapers at home on Saturday November 17. For the second straight week, Plano battled a very worthy opponent tooth and nail before finally coming up with yet another huge victory.
The Reapers used two third quarter touchdowns and a very stingy defense to claim a 14-8 victory over the high powered Eagles of Aurora Christian (12-1).
In the process Plano (12-1) advanced to their second straight IHSA Class 3A State Championship game where they’ll face the Columbia Eagles (12-1) at 4 p.m. on Friday November 23. The game will be played at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign.
“We knew this would be an outstanding game with Aurora Christian just like it was last week with St. Joe. No games at this time of the year and at this point in the playoffs are easy to win,” said Plano head football coach Jim Green. “But to be able to get another big win today and advance to the championship game for the second year in a row on our home field is wonderful for the community. I’m just so proud.”
Green’s pride was reflected in the tremendous effort his players gave from the opening kickoff. Plano limited Aurora Christian zero points on only two possessions in the first half with a combination of ball control offense and stifling defense. The Eagles were averaging 44 points a game in 2007.
Unfortunately for the Reapers, they were unable to dent the scoreboard as well having a field goal blocked and a touchdown called back by penalty during their only drives of the opening two periods.
As a result the two clubs went into the intermission tied with a rather unlikely scenario of neither team having scored a point.
“I don’t think a lot of people would have laid money on a zero, zero game at halftime let alone a 14-8 final score,” Green said. “We felt like we gave them an opportunity near the end of the first half, but we held them defensively. I think that gave our kids some inspiration to go on and do what they did in the third quarter and the second half.”
Plano once again held Aurora Christian on the games first possession of the third period and then got inspired on offense.
The Reapers put together a 10 play, 72 yard drive that culminated with Luis Alvarado’s 1-yard touchdown run at 5:11 of the third quarter. Kevin Jernigan's point after kick was good and Plano led 7-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Reapers generated what maybe was the biggest break of the game on a special teams play. Aurora Christian kick returner Sean O’Boyle was hit by Plano’s Kevin DeBolt and fumbled the ball. Reaper sophomore Justin O’Hara recovered at the Eagles 18 yard line.
Two plays later, Alvarado scored on another 1-yard plunge at 4:44 and in less than 30 second’s Plano had a 14-0 lead.
“We knew after we got the ball on the turnover, we were going to score again. We had all the momentum in the world. You could see the fear in their faces,” said Plano senior quarterback Brian Green. “We finished two drives very quickly and I was really proud of my teammates in that we were able to grab the momentum and take control of the game.”
The Reapers held the Eagles once again on downs as the fourth quarter started with Plano still up by 14.
But after the Reapers went three-and-out on their first possession of the final period, Aurora Christian finally scored on John Smith’s 2-yard touchdown run at 3:59. Smith’s 2-yard jaunt for the two-point conversion cut Plano lead to 14-8.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, their lengthy fourth quarter drive left little time on the clock. The Reapers then chewed up the final three plus minutes with an extended drive that landed them inside the Aurora Christian 10 yard line as the clock wound down to zero.
Once again, Plano found themselves with another hard fought playoff win and another trip to Champaign.
“Last year everyone believed in us. Coming into this year a lot of people were doubting us not believing we could get to the championship game again,” said Plano all-state senior linebacker Dan Peruski. “But we knew from the beginning of the year we’d be good and we stepped it up. After that rough spot at Coal City, we never got down and we just rolled from there. What a great feeling to be going back with another chance to win the title back to back.”
Peruski led the staunch Plano defense with 4 tackles and seven assists as the Reapers limited the high powered Eagles offense to only 201 yards on the game.
Plano posted 257 yards total offensively as sophomore J.J. cannon trotted out 105 yards on 12 carries.
“I think everyone on this team felt this was the ultimate goal of the season,” Alvarado said. “I don’t think words can describe how happy it’d make me to win another championship. One more victory and we’re there.”
“The kids know that tonight wasn’t the championship. It’s going to be played out Friday at 4 o’clock. I think they’ll be a sea of purple down in Champaign,” Jim Green said. “We got a chance to repeat so we’re going to try to make the most of it. If you look through the years, there’s not a lot of teams that get to do that. We’re going to try to put our names in there.”