Saturday, September 14, 2019

Redbirds roll against East Peoria

PHOTO / COLTEN KAHLER

METAMORA, Ill. - It was a golden opportunity for the Metamora Redbirds (2-1) (1-0) to turn it around after a frustrating loss on the road against Rock Island in Week 2.

After the opening coin toss, the Redbirds won the flip and elected to receive the opening kickoff, meaning that the Metamora fans would get to see sophomore quarterback Solomon Schwarz make his inaugural start as the man under center right away.

The Raiders did not start the game off on the wrong foot. Just 12 seconds in, the officials already had a flag on the field - face mask against East Peoria. Interestingly enough, Metamora counteracted with a personal foul penalty with just 22 seconds having ticked off the clock.

Schwarz would have an early opportunity to showcase his abilities, breaking through the East Peoria defense for a 21-yard run.

From the ground game to the air attack, the sophomore then launched a 27-yard pass to 6’3” junior Ryne Begole. That impressive pass would fall just shy of a touchdown, getting marked at the Raiders’ 1-yard line. So then within seconds, senior Carl Sally ran it in from that yard and got the game’s first tally at 7-0. Now, there was still 45:15 of play remaining after the score, so plenty of football left to be played.

Metamora would catch a break. They would fumble the ball with about five and a half minutes to go in the opening quarter, but the defense came up big and made a stand, keeping it at 7-0, at least for the interim.

Then a roughing the passer penalty came in with 1:46 until the break, and just like that, the Redbirds would hold a slim 7-0 lead against a team that hasn’t scored on the Redbirds twice in one game since the 2015 meeting between the two.

Later in the quarter, it’d be East Peoria’s Tristen Westbay adding to the running resumes of both quarterbacks, running it in for the Raiders from 23 yards to tie it up at 7-7 after a quarter.

It’s a play that 30th-year Head Coach Pat Ryan believes is just part of what Westbay can do.

“We knew that was going to happen. We knew the quarterback was a good athlete. We said - these guys are capable of making some plays.”

With just under two minutes passed in the second quarter, Metamora’s Jake Welsh ran ahead a first-down run of four yards, and that was followed by an impressive 55-yard touchdown pass from Schwarz to Connor Lopez, followed by Schwarz keeping it for the two-point conversion and the Redbirds re-took the lead.
After the Redbirds were whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, it would back the home team up a whole 15 yards. Yet that didn’t make a difference for Schwarz. The sophomore completed another one, this time to Ryne Begole - 53 yards. Only this time, Begole would be marked just shy of the end zone, unlike the previous 50+ yard pass. Jake Welsh would promptly punch it in from a yard out.
On the next East Peoria drive, Metamora’s Skyler Hassinger slipped through the Raider defensive line and made his way to Westbay under center for the quarterback sack and a loss of five yard. That backed the Raiders up a ways, so when Begole pulled in another pass from Schwarz for 39 yards, he was already at the opponent’s 10 yard line.

Welsh would run another one in, this time from 10 yards, and Dylan Messacar added the extra point to make it 35-7, ending up as the halftime score in favor of the Redbirds.

Unfortunately for East Peoria, a theme of one of the first plays of the halves not being good ones, the Raiders where flagged for intentional grounding just over a minute into the third quarter, and eventually the ball would change hands.

It took until 10:40 on the clock in the third quarter, but Solomon Schwarz would throw his first incomplete pass of the game.

About two minutes later, Schwarz had already rebounded from the one incompletion, tossing a pair of passes to Begole, then Ashton Roe, both to get within the East Peoria 5-yard-line.
On the next Raiders drive, they had a very good chance at a touchdown, but the receiver dropped what would’ve been a Raider touchdown.

With 5:28 to go until the fourth, Payton McDonald completed a pass to Owen Farquer to officially send the game to its ‘running clock’ phase, with the host Redbirds leading 49-7.
It was the Raiders that started the fourth quarter well, bringing the Redbirds down in their own end zone for a safety.

East Peoria would find their way to the end zone, just a case of too little, too late. A 17-yard pass from Westbay to Hidden made it 49-15, and down the road, the Raiders weren’t done just yet.

Before the Raiders scoring was finished, Joe Cardin made quite possibly one of the best catches you will see all year. Video will be attached to this story later, but it was a one-handed, no-gloves catch that he got up a bit for and gained substantial yardage on. It’s a play that has Coach Ryan touting Cardin’s skills not on the football field, but on the track.

“You got to remember. As a freshman, Joe (Cardin) won the high jump in our conference, and it’s a pretty good track conference. It’s the fact, not the jump, but that he was able to catch it with one hand.”
Ryan, laughing a bit, says Cardin may have taken the idea from Begole.

“Well, it was a great catch. We’ve seen (Ryne) Begole do that a couple of times, so maybe he was watching Begole and figured it out.”
The Redbirds would score for the final time in this one, when Ethan Petri took it in for a three-yard rushing touchdown, and Trace Melody added the point-after, giving Metamora 56 points, their highest point total since Week 6 of last season (win vs. Morton).
East Peoria would quickly return the kickoff for a touchdown, and that would set the final score at 56-23, and the Redbirds would officially turn it around, becoming (2-1) (1-0) after the Week 3 win.

Despite the solid overall game, Coach Ryan believes there’s multiple parts of the Redbirds’ game that could still see improvement. He also went on to say that one unit in particular he would like to at least see improvement, as he doesn’t expect it to be perfectly fixed in the snap of a finger.

“We still have to improve our guys up front. We’re still not communicating as well on the offensive line as we would like. Defensively, we missed some tackled in open space that I thought we should’ve had.”

On top of that, the Redbirds, according to Ryan, had two objectives headed into this one: to win and not be sluggish, and to be healthy. Check and check.

Oh, but there’s one more thing he wanted to make sure of. The health. Coach Ryan says that’s going to be critical to the team’s development. He believes it will help with the health in order for his team to maintain consistency and take “a step further without having to re-do our lineup,'' adding “that’s hard to do”.
It’ll be a road trip for Metamora in Week 4, as they’ll travel to Frank Leach Field in Bartonville to take on the Limestone Rockets, who are fresh off a 34-7 loss on the road to the Washington Panthers.

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