Metamora wins big one for Coach Ryan

Tom Batters
Pat Ryan

The first few minutes were a nightmare ­ — and then Metamora woke up.

The defending state champion Redbirds trailed, 10-0, just five minutes into the game against Bloomington Central Catholic Friday night, but they recovered en route to a 48-24 victory.

It was the 200th career win for coach Pat Ryan.

“You find out what kind of team you have when you face adversity like that,” Ryan said. “We made some mistakes and got down early. We’re disappointed in those mistakes, but we’re also proud of the way we fought back.”

Ryan did not dwell on the 200 career wins.

“It’s one win,” he said. “Now, we have to focus on getting one next week. I just feel fortunate that they let me stick around this long.”

The opening drive was a disaster for Metamora. The Redbirds committed an off-sides penalty on the second play of the game. On fourth down, the punting unit did not get onto the field in time, so Ryan had to use a timeout.

Then, Central Catholic’s Brad Connor returned the punt for a touchdown. The Redbirds fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which gave the Saints good field position.

The Saints scored on a four-play dive and led, 10-0, with 7:30 left in the first quarter.

Senior quarterback Michael Fay and senior running back Bryan Love took over on the Redbirds’ next drive.

Love and Fay were the only Redbirds to carry the ball during the 13-play dive that ended with a three-yard touchdown run by Love.

The snap on the extra point attempt rolled past kicker Brennen VanMieghem, so the point failed, and Metamora trailed, 10-6, with 20 seconds left in the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, a strong punt return by Metamora senior Kyle Alberston set up a scoring drive.

Fay ran in for a six-yard touchdown with 40 seconds left in the half.

A penalty on the two-point conversion attempt forced the Redbirds to settle for the extra point instead.

Metamora led, 13-10, at halftime, despite its five penalties.

The real Redbirds showed up in the second half, which featured some big plays on defense and a punishing ground attack on offense.

With 7:15 left in the third quarter, Central Catholic was in striking distance at the Metamora 24-yard line when Redbirds senior Andrew Jones sacked quarterback Oliver Moews for a nine-yard loss.

On the next play, senior Mark McDaniel intercepted Moews’s pass to give the ball back to the Redbirds.

Fay busted through the line and broke free for a 56-yard run to the Central Catholic 15 yard line.

He scored two plays later on a six yard run. VanMieghem nailed the extra point to make it 20-10. The extra point tied him for the most extra points in IHSA history.

On Central Catholic’s next possession, senior David Tracy intercepted Moews’s pass after linebacker Tom Bieneman flew around the defensive end and almost came up with a sack. Moews got rid of the ball in a hurry and Tracy got the interception.

The Redbirds fumbled on their drive, and Central Catholic scored to cut the lead to 20-17 with 11:45 left in the game.

Love plowed through the middle and broke a couple tackles on his way to a 27-yard touchdown to give Metamora a 27-17 lead with 9:44 left.

On Central Catholic’s next drive, Jones intercepted a pass and ran it back 37 yards for a touchdown to give the Redbirds a 34-17 lead.

The highlight of the night came with 4:56 left in the game.

On second down, Fay dropped back and threw a perfect pass to senior wide receiver Brett McKinney, who caught the ball in stride and ran the remaining 40 yards for a touchdown.

“We wanted to use that play earlier, but, you know me. It takes me forever to want to throw the ball,” Ryan said. “It was a great play.”

Fay only attempted one other pass, which was incomplete.

Senior Jake Ferguson scored a late touchdown for Metamora, and Central Catholic added a touchdown in the final minute to make the final score, 48-24.

Love and Fay each rushed for 119 yards.

Ferguson rushed for 44 yards and junior Charlie Nowotnik had 21 yards.

Love also played linebacker (he had a team-high nine tackles) and contributed to holding Central Catholic running back Shane Powe to just 75 yards.

“I’m tired out,” Love said. “But, that’s part of playing a football game. Everybody gave a great effort tonight. It started off rocky, but we all came together and played hard.”

Ryan said his team showed “flashes of good football,” but there is plenty of work to do.

“It was the first game. We made some typical first-game mistakes,” Ryan said. “But, we also showed what kind of football team we can be.”

Metamora plays at South Elgin (at Streamwood High School) Saturday before starting Mid-Illini Conference play  Sept. 10 at Canton.