The city of Watseka had not seen a home playoff victory in 33 years. At least, that was the case until Saturday’s playoff game between the Warriors and the Tremont Turks.
The two teams were each 6-3 on the regular season with Watseka seeded number eight above Tremont in the nine spot. Watseka was able to defeat the Turks with a game final of 19-8 and give the Warriors their first at home playoff win since 1986.
The Warriors kicked off to start the game giving Tremont a chance to score. The Turks were able to get the ball down to the Warriors’ six yard line before turning over on downs. With 2:58 on the clock. Watseka’s Jameson Cluver managed a 52 yard run to score Watseka’s first TD of the day. The point after kick by Henry Pavlak was successful and the Warriors found themselves up over Tremont 7-0 in the first quarter. At the 1:55 mark still in the first quarter of play, Watseka’s Conner Curry was able to intercept a pass from the Turks and give Watseka the ball back. From there, Wittenborn managed to find their arms of Justin Bunting in the end zone to score yet again in the first quarter. This time, the point after attempt by Pavlak was no good giving the Warriors six additional points to make the score 13-0. Neither team put up any points in the second quarter giving the Warriors the advantage at the half.
The third quarter saw little action offensively from either side until the 56 second mark when Tremont found themselves on the Warriors one yard line. The Turks’ Caiden Buster managed to break through for one yard to score, as well as picking up a conversion run to give Tremont eight points to the Warriors’ 13. With pressure building from Tremont after the touchdown, Watseka needed to regroup. In the fourth, with 4:43 left in the game, Wittenborn completed a pass to Curry who managed a 99 yard run all the way down the field to score. The Warriors made a conversion attempt which failed adding another six points. Watseka was able to keep Tremont from finding the end zone, making the final score 19-8 to end the game.
Curry, who had the 99 yard touchdown that helped secure the Warriors’ victory, said he was happy to help his team in that pivotal moment.
“It felt great. I was glad to get that for the team and get our motivation back up after we got that stop at the goal line,” he said.
“I’m glad we were able to get the win. We worked months and months for this and this was our goal. Now, we’ve just got to keep going.”
For head coach Aaron Hilgendorf, the best thing about the win was to see his players leave it all out on the field.
“These young men give themselves to each other and it’s what football is all about, which is selflessness. That showed on the field tonight,” he said.
“I thought our defense played well and was able to get the big stop when it was needed most. I’m proud of the entire program for investing themselves.”
Offensively, Wittenborn managed 192 passing yards during the game. Curry picked up 23 rushing yards as well as 108 receiving yards. Cluver grabbed himself 80 rushing yards while Bunting earned 49 receiving.
On the defensive side, Tylor Durflinger had 13 so lot tackles for the game while Nick Albright earned eight and Curry grabbed seven.
The Watseka Warriors will now take on the number one seeded Knoxville Blue Bullets on Nov. 8 or 9.