Redbirds crush Little Giants, 44-0

Tom Batters
Drew Cullett

The game between Metamora and Canton Friday night was cancelled after halftime due to bad weather, but it was over long before the lightning struck.

Metamora scored on its first three possessions and led 21-0 before some fans had a chance to find their seats.

The Redbirds led 44-0 at halftime.

After the first play of the second half, the lightning alarms sounded and the referee ordered a 30-minute lightning delay.

After 30 minutes, the lightning got worse and a storm moved in, so the game was cancelled, giving Metamora (2-1) the abbreviated 44-0 victory in its first Mid-Illini Conference game of the season.

“It was nice to get back on top of things, and see some of our players smile again,” said Metamora coach Pat Ryan. “We faced some adversity last week (a 49-26 loss at South Elgin), so I wanted to see how we would respond to that. We played a lot of different kids tonight, and they played well.”

Senior quarterback Michael Fay got the scoring started with a 35-yard touchdown run on the fifth play of the game. Two plays earlier, junior running back Charlie Nowotnik broke free for a 36-yard gain.

Nowotnik rushed for 90 yards on nine carries. He also scored a touchdown.

Fay ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries. He completed two of four passes for 33 yards.

Senior quarterback Beau Geier completed one of two passes for 18 yards and ran for 47 yards and a touchdown.

Senior running back Jake Ferguson rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

Metamora gained 359 total yards and earned 17 first downs. Canton had just 115 total yards and five first downs.

Nowotnik and Ferguson got most of the carries in place of starting fullback Bryan Love, who missed the game with an ankle injury.

“We have multiple backs who can get the job done,” Ryan said.

Metamora added on two more points with a safety late in the first quarter. When Canton attempted to punt, the snap went over the punter’s head and into the end zone.

The Metamora defensive line led by Preston Butner, Drew Cullett and Andrew Jones, recorded several tackles for losses of yardage.

“We’re all coming together on the line. We’re practicing harder, and we’re getting after it,” Butner said. “On defense, we’re reading the plays and staying disciplined.”

Ryan said Cullett was one of the “unsung heroes” of the game.

“Drew played really well," he said. “He is stopping people at the line, and he’s working hard out there.”

The Redbirds led 14-0 after two early touchdown runs by Fay. Ryan put Geier in at quarterback for the next series.

Geier’s first pass was an 18-yard completion to Jones. Two plays later, he plowed through the middle for a 35-yard touchdown run.

“Our offensive line played great tonight,” said Butner, who plays on both lines. “We gave the backs a hole, and they hit it quickly. That’s what we need to do if we’re going to win.”

Metamora plays East Peoria at home at 7:30 p.m. Friday. East Peoria is 0-3 after a 49-0 loss to Washington Friday.

FRIDAY NIGHT NOTEBOOK:

Before I get to the win over Canton, I want to express a few more thoughts about last week’s loss at South Elgin.

I know most of you would rather not read anything more about that game, so I’ll be brief.

I chatted with a lot of Redbird fans last week.

Some of them took the loss pretty hard. A couple of them might need counseling to get over the “brutal” 49-26 defeat. Others took it in stride and, believe it or not, managed to get out of bed the next morning.

Here’s my take:

The loss was not that bad.

South Elgin is a Class 8A team that is receiving votes in the most recent Class 8A AP poll.

Class 8A is as big as it gets.

Metamora is Class 5A.

South Elgin was a step up in competition. There is nothing wrong with admitting that. It doesn’t mean that Metamora was a “wimpier” team. It does not diminish the level of play in Class 5A.

South Elgin has 2,647 students. Metamora has 1,328 students.

Losing 49-26 after hitting the road for a three-hour bus trip to play a behemoth Class 8A giant is nothing to be ashamed of.

How would Washington have fared? Or Dunlap, or East Peoria?

The Redbirds suffered their share of key injuries, but Metamora coach Pat Ryan said those were not as bad as first expected.

“They’re all coming along pretty good,” he said. “I think we’ll start getting all our guys back in the next few weeks.”

The game also exposed Metamora to an athletic team with a potent passing offense.

Facing a team like that will only help prepare the Redbirds for the explosive passing game that Dunlap will unleash in two weeks.

Dunlap senior quarterback Logan Schrader is arguably the most talented passer in the conference (I think Fay could be, but the Redbirds don’t pass the ball enough to make a valid comparison).

Maybe South Elgin quarterback John Menken’s 300-plus yards passing will help the Redbirds tighten up their passing defense before the Dunlap game Sept. 24.

So, to those fans who are devastated by the loss, take a deep breath and get over it.

The Redbirds will be fine.

In fact, they were back to their old selves Friday night in a 44-0 win at Canton.

Canton was an inferior opponent (13 straight losses), but I like what I saw from the Redbirds.

Metamora dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and showed no signs of wear from last week’s defeat.

Point of no return

Senior kicker Brennen VanMieghem, who broke the record for most extra points in state history, does more than kick the ball through the uprights.

He changes the game.

VanMieghem blasted the kickoff into the end zone for a touchback after every Metamora touchdown Friday night, so Canton had to repeatedly start at its own 20-yard line.

On one kick, the Canton kick returner did not even move his feet as he watched the ball sail over his head the way a center fielder would watch a 450-foot home run fly into the upper deck.

“Starting at your own 20-yard line is a lot different than starting at your own 40,” Ryan said. “It deflates a team when they have to keep starting at their own 20 like that.”

Not so fast

Senior defensive back Beau Geier saved a touchdown when he tackled Canton quarterback Jake Chenoweth in the secondary. Then, on the very next play, Geier saved another touchdown when he caught up with Chenoweth just as it looked like he was on his way to a touchdown run.

 A few plays later, Chenoweth broke through the line again, and sprinted toward the end zone. This time, Jarod Reatherford and Adam Bowers caught him from behind.

Starting sophomore

Sophomore Blake Mason started at linebacker in place of Bryan Love, who missed the game with an ankle injury.

Mason recovered a Canton fumble early in the second quarter. Junior Charlie Nowotnik scored on the next play to give the Redbirds a 30-0 lead with 10:09 left in the first half.

“Blake has good instincts at that position. He’s a physical kid, and we have confidence in him,” Ryan said. “Having Tommy (senior linebacker Tom Bieneman) back there helps, too.”

Cut to the Chase

Junior defensive end Chase Scott had an interception for the second straight game.

“Chase is playing really well. He gives us even more depth on defense,” Ryan said.

Strong arms

After each touchdown, the Metamora cheerleaders did pushups to go along with the number of points on the scoreboard. So, when the Redbirds scored to make it 44-0, the cheerleaders did 44 pushups.

Air time

Ben Friday, a 6’5” junior receiver, caught one pass for a 21-yard gain. Senior Brett McKinney caught an 11-yard pass. Senior Andrew Jones caught one pass for 18 yards.

On the line

Ryan said senior center/defensive lineman Preston Butner is emerging as a leader on both sides of the ball.

“We saw some adversity last week. Preston is one of the guys who used that as a positive thing,” Ryan said. “He worked hard in practice and left it all out in the field tonight.”

When asked about the demanding grind of playing on the offensive and defensive line, Butner said, “it all starts in the offseason. I condition myself to be ready for the season. I want to be out there as much as I can.”