No. 2-rated Redbirds stymie boys

Bryan Veginski
Open space:?Washington senior Nick Brunk runs in the open field Friday during a 55-yard scamper in the fourth quarter of the Panthers’ 35-0 road loss to defending Class 5A state champion Metamora. The Panthers are 1-1 entering this week’s contest against Canton.

Metamora handily won the matchup Friday of state-ranked football teams at Malone Field.

The Redbirds, the No. 2 team in the Associated Press Class 5A poll and the defending state champions, handed Washington a 35-0 setback in both teams’ Mid-Illini Conference opener.

The eighth-ranked Panthers mustered about 120 yards of offense, nearly half of it coming on a fourth-quarter run.

Combined with other league results, Washington (1-1) is one of seven teams with a .500 record overall through the first two weeks. Only Metamora remains unbeaten.

Early in the fourth quarter, Panther Nick Brunk broke off a 55-yard run to reach the Metamora seven-yard line.

But Washington fumbled the ball on the next play, one of three turnovers for the visitors, as the Redbirds preserved the shutout.

The Panthers rushed for 94 yards, with Brunks’ 59 leading the way.

“If you can’t run the ball, you can’t win,” said WCHS head coach Darrell Crouch.

Metamora marched 85 yards in 4:46 on the game’s opening drive, finalized by a Michael Fay two-yard quarterback keeper, to take a 7-0 first-quarter lead.

Washington was pinned back at its own five-yard line to start its first series and was forced to punt from the one.

The Redbirds took advantage of a short field to reach pay dirt again on a one-yard plunge from Fay.

Two crisp passes on the ensuing Panther possession from QB Drew Schlink to receiver Chase Catton, totaling 27 yards, moved the chains.

The second connection, good for 14 yards, advanced the ball to the Metamora 40.

The drive stalled, and the hosts methodically proceeded 63 yards for a 21-0 halftime lead.

The Redbirds wound 7:33 off the clock running 14 plays, with Aaron Peters’ first TD of the night the capper. Peters led all ball carriers with 152 yards.

Metamora committed a couple pass-interference penalties to open the third period, but Dan Burk intercepted a pass after Washington reached the Redbird 30.

Zach Garber hauled in a 45-yard reception and Peters crossed the goal line two plays later for a 28-0 margin with 8:24 left in the third.

The Panthers dodged a bullet when Redbird Charlie Heinzmann made a 26-yard reception, but fumbled the ball through the end zone for a touchback.

Washington lost a fumble on its next drive and Metamora capitalized on a Fay scamper with under six minutes to go in the third.

“Those critical errors. You can’t do that,” said Crouch of Panther mistakes that could have given the game a different tone had they not been made.

The M-I victory was the 29th in a row for the Redbirds, who have not lost a conference game since Oct. 17, 2003, at Morton.

Up next: Canton (1-1, 0-1) awaits in week three for the Panthers in their return to Babcook Field.

Since 2000, the Little Giants have won five of the eight meetings in the series. Washington claimed a 35-6 decision last year.