SAVANNA – With less than a minute left in the third quarter of Saturday’s Class 2A second-round playoff game against West Carroll, the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Falcons took possession of the ball and coach Mike Allen felt it was a chance to quiet his team’s critics.
The undefeated Falcons had rolled through their regular-season schedule and their first-round game against Eastland-Pearl City to the tune of outscoring their opponents by an average of 42 points.
Saturday was different. The Thunder were different, and the Falcons had to answer the call. They did, driving for half of the fourth quarter and scoring to essentially end the Thunder’s upset hopes.
GCMS won 24-6 to advance to the quarterfinals, where it will meet El Paso-Gridley.
“We got the ball right before the fourth quarter, and Coach just said this would be a great time to have like a 9-minute drive,” senior running back Mitch McNutt said. “I think it only ended up being 6 minutes, but it ended with a score, and that’s what we needed.”
McNutt, who converted one of the two key fourth-down plays on the drive, scored on a 2-yard plunge with 6:11 left in the game to put the Falcons (11-0) up 16-6.
“The question people have asked us is can we play four quarters,” Allen said. “We proved that today. West Carroll was as physical and as fast of a team as we have played. They pushed us, and we needed that drive.”
An 8-yard pass from Nathan Garard to Bryce Barnes to the West Carroll 3-yard line also extended the drive on a fourth-and-seven play.
After an Austin Spiller interception of a Kody Plattenberger pass on the ensuing drive, GCMS tacked on another touchdown on a 5-yard run by McNutt.
McNutt finished with 142 rushing yards.
The West Carroll (7-4) offense never found a rhythm against the Falcons. The Thunder were held to 120 total yards, with 68 of those coming on the first drive of the third quarter.
“We struggled a lot on offense,” Plattenberger said. “They did a good job of taking away the things that we wanted to do.”
The Thunder scored on the opening drive of the third quarter to draw within three points at 9-6. The key play of the drive was a 43-yard pass from Plattenberger to Jacob Dunk. Kaleb Plattenberger finished the drive with a 1-yard run.
Class 2A playoffs
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 24, West Carroll 6
Star of the game: Mitch McNutt, GCMS, 27 carries, 142 yards, 2 TDs
He said it: “They were a really good team. We are proud because I think we stood toe-to-toe with them all four quarters. They were able to make a few more plays at the end.” – West Carroll quarterback Kody Plattenberger