LANARK – It took Eastland-Pearl City just 12 seconds to show it meant business in its Class 2A first-round playoff game against Chicago Harlan on Saturday afternoon.
Jarod Kempel returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and the Wildcatz were off to the races on their way to a 58-26 demolition of the Falcons before a festive crowd in Lanark.
“We’re taking every week 1-0,” Kempel said. “We’re not thinking about any other weeks except the week that we’re in. That’s the way we’re going to play, and hopefully we can go all the way.”
Kempel covered 82 yards on the game-opening score, and didn’t meet much in the way of opposition. He had to break a few arm tackles along the way, but was never in any danger of being dragged to the ground.
“We knew we could get something big if we got our blocks all good and they actually kicked to us,” Kempel said. “We thought they were going to be squibbing and pooching. They actually kicked to us, I saw a hole, just hit it, and I went all the way.”
EPC’s next two scores also came with its offense on the sideline. At the 10:41 mark of the first quarter, Collyn Kuberski picked off a pass from Harlan quarterback D’Morian Blair and brought it back 70 yards for a score.
It was Koberski’s fourth interception this season, and the second one he’s taken to the house. He also did that against West Carroll.
“It was great blocks all the way around,” Koberski said. “The team got all hyped up, and everyone was ready to go by that point.”
Harlan’s ensuing possession started from the 6-yard line, and on a second-and-11 play from the 5, the Falcons were whistled for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety. Harlan would go on to be called for 12 penalties for 86 yards.
EPC’s offense then kicked into gear. The Wildcatz (10-0) rushed 21 times for 199 yards in the first half, including TD runs of 1 and 2 yards by Braeden Heeren; 46 and 11 yards by Jarod Kempel; and 12 yards by Jayden Kempel.
Travis Spong caught two passes for 33 yards, including a spectacular one-hander for 26 yards. Kuberski added another pick to set up Heeren’s second score, and the Wildcatz led 51-6 at halftime, ensuring a mercy-rule clock for the second half.
EPC reserves played the third and fourth quarters. Travis Kaney scored the Wildcatz’s last TD on a 1-yard plunge in the third quarter.
Harlan (5-5) scored three touchdowns in the final 11 minutes, all on long touchdown passes from junior quarterback Blair. They were 33 yards to Dan Wright, 41 yards to David Curtis, and 37 yards to Decarius Davis.