The Evergreen Park Mustang's dream season ended Saturday night against Alleman from Rock Island in the Class 4A semifinals.
Evergreen Park took an early lead on a Brandon White touchdown run, and the game remained tied 7-7 until the final minute of the first half.
With 32 seconds left, Alleman's Sean Wetherell caught a touchdown pass to put the Pioneers ahead 13-7. On the ensuing kickoff, CJ Kolls recovered a loose ball to set up an Alleman field goal, giving the Pioneers a 16-7 lead at the half.
The Mustangs couldn't get any more offense going in the second half and were plagued by penalties and sacks that had them moving in the wrong direction. The Pioneer pass rush was fantastic, making it hard on White to find open receivers.
"We had opportunities in the first quarter," Mustangs coach Dan Hartman said. "We were moving the ball and we'd shoot ourselves in the foot. Little mistakes. That's the story of the game. We struggled a little bit protecting Brandon. And when we did have lanes to throw they had a few balls that were batted."
Alleman ate up the clock with its fantastic run game, highlighted by a 17-play, 59-yard touchdown drive in which every play was a rush. Down 16 points with a few minutes to go, Evergreen Park finally completed some passes and marched down the field, but its drive ended with an interception.
"That's what they've done all year," Hartman said of Alleman's run game. "They're going to run the dive and their option play at you a thousand times until you can stop it. It probably wore us down a bit in the second half."
This was the deepest Evergreen Park football has ever gotten in the playoffs. After the game, Hartman said he was proud of the team.
"No one would have picked us to go this far," he said. "I told the senior class they're probably the most successful playoff group that ever came through Evergreen Park. They have nothing to hang their heads on. They played hard. The didn't quit."
Patch MVP: Sean Wetherell, Alleman. He didn't amass many yards (18 rushing and 13 receiving) but scored two touchdowns. Late in the game, when Evergreen Park was driving to try making it a one-score game, Wetherell burst through the line and sacked White for an 11-yard loss. On the next play, he got to White again, forcing him to throw the game-ending interception.
Evergreen Park Stat Pack: White was 7-of-23 passing for 136 yards and two interceptions. He also ran 16 times for 107 yards and a touchdown, not including six sacks for a loss of 46 yards. Receiver Jacquet McClendon was double-teamed most of the night and finished with two catches for 47 yards. Don Oresky, DaQua Gatewood and Kyle Vanhuizen all had at least seven tackles on the defensive side.
Alleman Stat Pack: Quarterback John Tracey was 4-of-8 passing for 54 yards and a touchdown, and also ran nine times for 51 yards and a score. Running back Adam Hoogerwerf rushed 18 times for 69 yards and had two catches for 41 yards. Connor Doak ran 13 times for 60 yards. On defense, Scott Schilb and Connor Whan had interceptions.
What's Next: Evergreen Park finishes the season at 9-4. Alleman (12-1) will face Rochester in the Class 4A state championship on Friday, Nov. 23.
Watch a replay of the game or catch highlights courtesy of High School Cube.