Two more to go...

Tom Batters
Metamora junior Ryan McGowan and his teammates celebrate the Redbirds 34-7 victory over Pontiac in the Class 4A quarterfinal game.

Metamora junior lineman Ryan McGowan held up his left arm, smiled, and showed off the purple bruise where the ball hit when he blocked a punt Saturday.

“It hit my arm pretty hard,” he said. “But, at first, I didn’t know I blocked it. I thought another player hit me. Then, I saw somebody running toward the end zone. It was a great feeling. We had the block play on, and we pulled it off perfectly.”

Metamora senior David Tracy picked up the blocked punt and ran it to the Pontiac 3-yard line. Senior quarterback Michael Fay scored on the next play to give the Redbirds a 21-0 lead early in the second half.

They went on to win, 34-7, and advance to the Class 3A semifinals Saturday at Rochester (12-0).

McGowan and Tracy led a vicious defense that dished out plenty of hard hits and held Pontiac senior running back Chase Alford to just 50 yards.

“That was a heck of a defensive effort. It might have been our best all year,” said senior defensive lineman Andrew Jones, who also delivered a few of those hard hits on Alford and senior fullback Kris Ingram. “The linebackers (Tom Bieneman and Blake Mason) did a great job, and everybody on the line got off the ball so quick.”

The game was played on a very cold, windy day in which the sun only peeked out from behind a cloud for about five minutes prior to the game. At times, the wind gusted and had a noticeable affect on the game.

Metamora was going against the strong wind in the first quarter.

Senior Colton Willett busted open a 38-yard run on the third play of the game to get the Redbirds to the Pontiac 37-yard line, but they were forced to punt four plays later.

Pontiac tried a trick play on its second play of the game, but it backfired. Alford took the handoff, dropped back a couple yards, and threw a pass, which was intercepted by Metamora junior Adam Parr.

Metamora faced a fourth down (two yards to go) situation from its own 38-yard line on the next series. Fay ran for the first down to keep the drive alive, but the Redbirds could not get any closer than midfield and they had to punt once again.

Fay’s punt went all the way to the Pontiac 15-yard line.

Bieneman, Tracy, McGowan and senior nose tackle Drew Cullett all made tackles on Alford in the next series and Pontiac had to punt after just three short plays.

Fay hit Tracy for a 35-yard completion to get the Redbirds to the Pontiac 16-yard line. Tracy was wide open over the middle after a play-action fake handoff to Charlie Nowotnik.

Fay capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown run to give Metamora a 7-0 lead with 1:15 left in the first quarter.

“Our offense is really starting to click,” McGowan said. “A lot of guys are doing their part.”

Pontiac was forced to punt on its next possession after Tracy hit Alford hard for a loss of one yard on third down.

Metamora went three plays and out (which does not happen very often) on its next series.

Pontiac made it to the Metamora 39-yard line on its next possession, but McGowan and Jones tackled Alford and Ingram for losses on back-to-back plays and the Indians were forced to punt. Kyle Battle mishandled the snap and scrambled to pick up the ball. His punt was very short and Metamora took over at the Pontiac 43-yard line.

On third down and 12, Metamora coach Pat Ryan dipped into the “secret weapon” portion of the playbook.

Fay threw a screen pass to senior Beau Geier, who threw to a wide-open Tracy downfield for a 16-yard gain.

“You have to tweak things a little when you get this far,” Ryan said. “You don’t want to make wholesale changes, but you have to throw in some new things. I don’t know if we can call David (Tracy) our secret weapon anymore, though. He’s become a big part of our offense.”

Nowotnik scored on a two-yard run to give Metamora a 14-0 lead with 1:56 left in the first half.

With :58 left in the half, Pontiac tried (and failed again) a trick play of its own. After a double reverse, quarterback Peter Martin scampered to his right and threw a long pass downfield. The pass fluttered in the wind and Geier came up with the interception.

Metamora kicker Brennen VanMieghem barely (only by a yard or two) missed a 57-yard field goal attempt with the wind in his back as time expired in the first half.

Second half

Alford, the senior who ran for 1,000 yards this season, was already showing signs of fatigue as at the start of the second half.

Tracy and senior Preston Butner stopped him for no gain on back-to-back carries, which set up McGowan’s blocked punt that led to Fay’s touchdown and a 21-0 lead.

Miller broke free for a 57-yard run that got Pontiac to the Metamora 17-yard line. He then hit Christian McBeath for a 20-yard touchdown pass to get Pontiac on the board.

“We gave up that one big run that led to a touchdown, but that was about it,” Ryan said. “Our defense played really well today. They kept them in front and didn’t allow many long runs.”

Parr retuned the ensuing kickoff to the Pontiac 47-yard line to give the Redbirds good field position.

The Redbirds fumbled and Pontiac recovered at the Metamora 30-yard line at the end of the third quarter.

The Indians could not get a first down. They tried a reverse handoff, but senior Brett McKinney played tight defense on the outside, and stopped Jerimiah Harrington short of a first down.

Tracy unleashed a 49-yard run on the first play of the next drive. Fay later scored on a two-yard keeper to make it 28-7 with 8:40 left.

Jones sacked Martin for a seven-yard loss to start the next Pontiac possession, and the Indians punted for the sixth time.

Fay ran for a first down to start the next drive, but he fumbled the ball just as he got hit. Metamora senior offensive lineman Lane Mitzelfelt recovered the ball, though.

It looked like the Redbirds would run out the clock the rest of the way, but, on third down (with 3:06 left), Ryan opened things up again. Fay hit McKinney for a 41-yard touchdown pass to give Metamora a 34-7 lead (the extra point failed).

“We have a lot of seniors who realize that this is their last chance,” Fay said. “If we don’t win, it’s all over. Now, we’re one game away from getting back to the championship game. We’re all focused on getting back there.”

Metamora will play at Rochester, which beat Quincy Notre Dame, 23-21, Saturday. Sandwich (11-1) and Rock Island Alleman (12-0) play in the other semifinal game.

“It looks like we’ll have to be road warriors again,” Ryan said. “That’s OK. We’ll play anywhere they send us.”

Odds and ends…

• After the game, one of the Metamora assistant coaches razzed Mitzelfelt, who is 6”4”, 315 pounds, about his fumble recovery.

“Mitzie, have you ever touched the football in a game before,” he said. Mitzelfelt just smiled, and said, “I don’t think so.”

• Metamora senior running back Jake Ferguson left the game late with a knee injury in the first half and did not return in the second half. “It doesn’t look too serious. We’ll have to wait and see how it is this week, though,” Ryan said.

• One of the Metamora team busses got a flat tire on the way to the game, but another bus was promptly dispatched. The players had to move all their equipment onto the new bus, but they still made it to the game in plenty of time.

• How about a “game ball” to somebody who didn’t even play in the game? I’ll give one to defensive coordinator Jared Grebner, who deserves a lot of credit for devising an air-tight defensive game plan against the Indians and keeping Alford and Ingram (48 touchdowns in 2010) out of the end zone.

• Tom Batters is sports editor of the Woodford Times. He can be reached at 686-3261, or tbatters@timestoday.com.