Dunlap keeps playoff hopes alive

Tom Batters
Joe Cloud

After his team held on to beat East Peoria, 21-13, Friday night, Dunlap coach Jeff Alderman said, “I am proud of our ‘stick-to-it-iveness.’”

It was an unusual word choice, but it made his point clearly.

“We could have lost this game in the end, but our guys stuck to it. They didn’t give up, and they finished strong,” he said. “That is a sign that our team is maturing and getting better. It was a good win for us.”

The Eagles (3-3) needed the win to keep their playoff hopes alive. They play at Canton (3-3) Friday.

Dunlap led 7-0 at halftime, thanks to a couple big stops on defense.

In the first quarter, East Peoria drove down the field and reached the 25-yard line, but running back Bryce Colvin fumbled a shovel pass from quarterback Steven Weaver. Zach Simmons recovered the ball for Dunlap.

Toward the end of the first half, Brian Gaines intercepted Weaver’s pass at the goal line to stop another Raider scoring threat.

Dunlap led, 7-0, at halftime on Cameron Tyler’s 15-yard touchdown run. Dunlap quarterback

Luke Sensabaugh set up the touchdown when he ran for 20 yards up the middle to the East Peoria 20-yard line.

Tyler recovered a fumble on East Peoria’s first possession of the second half, which ended another East Peoria scoring chance at the Dunlap 37-yard line.

Tyler, who made several tackles on defense and plowed straight ahead for several gains on offense, said the victory will give Dunlap a big boost for the rest of the season.

“I'm very sore after a game like this, but it’s worth it,” he said. “We came together as a team, and we won a big game. It’s a great feeling.”

The game was tied, 7-7, going into the fourth quarter.

East Peoria scored on its first drive of the fourth quarter, and Dunlap lost a fumble on the following possession.

A few plays later, Andrew Schultze recovered a fumble to give the ball right back to the Eagles.

With 6:42 left in the game, Joe Cloud broke free for a 54-yard touchdown run. Blake Abbott made the extra point to give Dunlap a 14-7 lead.

With 3:40 left to play, East Peoria scored a touchdown, but the extra point was partially blocked and missed wide to the right, so Dunlap still led, 14-13.

East Peoria pinned the Eagles back to their own 9-yard line on the kickoff, but Tyler and Cloud ran for positive gains to get the Eagles to the 31-yard line.

With 1:51 to go, Cloud burst through the middle and into the open field for a 40-yard gain that put the Eagles at the East Peoria 12-yard line.

A few plays later, Tyler ran in for a 1-yard touchdown with 1:08 left in the game. Abbott’s extra point made it 21-13.

The Dunlap defense forced six incomplete passes in the final drive and East Peoria was not able to get close to midfield.

With 33 seconds left, Dunlap defensive lineman P.J. Mangieri came flying around the end and hit Weaver hard just as he was about to throw, which resulted in an incomplete pass.

Alderman said his defense played well all night.

“They made stops when they needed to, and they played a whale of a first half,” he said.

Alderman said Cloud’s two long runs were a big key to the game.

“He has that breakaway speed. If he gets through the hole, he can turn it into a long gain,” he said. “That touchdown run was huge. It came at a key time in the game.”

Dunlap finishes its season against Canton (3-3), Limestone (1-5) and Rock Island Alleman (2-4).

The final two games are at home.

“We’re getting better. we're starting to gel as a team, and I think we can put together some wins here in the last few weeks,” Alderman said.