HOOPESTON — Matthew Leskis delivered a simple, yet effective message for his Hoopeston Area/Armstrong-Potomac football players prior to Friday night’s Vermilion Valley Conference home game with Salt Fork.

“I said, ‘If you want to make history, now’s the time to do it,’” Leskis said.

Message received. Loud and clear.

The Cornjerkers rallied past the Storm 22-20 on a rainy night that’ll be long remembered in this Vermilion County town, making HA/A-P eligible for the playoffs.

The Cornjerkers (5-3) hadn’t even won four games in a season prior to this year since 2001 and are now eligible for the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

“Watching that clock tick down and seeing the fans and the kids go nuts, this is why I do this,” said Leskis, who began coaching the Cornjerkers in 2019. “I’m just overwhelmed.”

HA/A-P trailed Salt Fork (5-3) by a 12-8 margin at halftime, but a third-quarter touchdown run from junior Hunter Cannon put the Cornjerkers ahead 16-12, and they eventually extended that edge to 22-12 before hanging on defensively. Sophomore Kollin Asbury came up with a critical fourth-quarter sack to stall a comeback by Salt Fork.

“In previous years, you could see them kind of let down,” Leskis said. “They had the energy (Friday). They said they could do it, and they did. They just kept plugging along.”

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