Offensive outburst propels Aces to blowout homecoming win over Washington
MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. -- With homecoming festivities happening throughout the city of Mount Carmel, Aces football proved be the night cap for the nice festive day. Facing significant pressure amidst a packed Riverview Stadium crowd and a must win game, the Aces responded with an offensive outburst unlike any they’ve shown this season, thrashing Washington 61-20 on Friday night at Riverview Stadium.
The Aces (3-2) began the game with the ball first after Washington (1-5) deferred for the second half -- they set the tempo of their offense early, working in a fast paced, high octane offense. Sophomore quarterback Kaleb Applebey connected with senior wide receiver Austin Rager on a couple passes, a connection that would be highly utilized, with Rager receiving 192 of Applebey’s 311 passing yards -- the numbers were season-highs for both of the Aces. Junior Trevor Peterson capped the opening drive with 1-yard rush touchdown on fourth down to give Mount Carmel a 7-0 lead.
Washington drove the ball deep into Mount Carmel territory on the following drive, but the defense forced them to turn it over on downs, giving Mount Carmel the ball at their own 28-yard line. The Aces needed just two plays to score following the turnover and punched it in on an Applebey 65-yard pass to junior Satchel Patberg for the touchdown -- one of Applebey’s five touchdowns in the game.
The opposing Hatchets answered quickly, scoring just under two minutes later, reducing the lead to 14-7. Peterson notched a couple big runs on the following drive to set up the Aces in Washington territory and the Applebey-Rager connection proved big again, connecting on a 34-yard touchdown to inflate the lead to 21-7.
Just before the end of the first quarter the Hatchets had the ball again, but fumbled it away on their first play from scrimmage. Coach Brewer’s squad wouldn’t let the mistake go without consequence, as freshman Zeke Hadra pieced a 37-yard rush to set up his 15-yard rush touchdown to increase the lead again, this time to 28-7 with 18 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Aces defense came up big again, forcing a quick three-and-out and setting the offense back at their 27-yard line. Shortly after, Applebey hit Rager again, this time on a 69-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing drive Washington turned it over again, this time an interception, one of three they would throw in the game. The Aces pieced together another drive and capitalized on another fourth and goal, with Applebey tossing a 6-yard pass to Peterson for a touchdown to expand the lead to 41-7. The lead would inflate to 48-14 at the half, ensuring it was well out of reach at that point.
Over the course of the game, the Aces combined for 599 yards of offense, a pleasant surprise to coach Michael Brewer, though they showed flashes of the capability last week against Richland County.
“There’s not a whole lot new, we’re trying to the same things we’ve been trying to do,” coach Brewer said. “We’re getting to a point now where we’re executing a little bit better.”
Applebey pieced together by far his best game of the season, rarely missing on throws and finishing 14-18 passing for 311 yards and five touchdowns, a truly impressive showing for the young quarterback.
“We’re doing a good job executing, offensive line wise we’re doing a good job up front, Kaleb’s doing a good job throwing the ball, better than he has all year,” Brewer spoke of Applebey and his team. “I’m pleased with them, we’re working hard, trying to get things better and get things fixed. We have some things working right now and we have to keep after it because we’re going to be tested in these next few weeks.”
The rushing attack complimented the young Ace quarterback well as well, with Hadra and Peterson rushing for a combined 209 yards on 20 carries and combined for five total touchdowns, the dual-headed attack of running backs are playing well enough to be securing the bulk of the Aces run game, but the offensive line is playing a vital role in their success.
“Trevor Peterson’s doing a heck of a job, keeps getting better, keeps improving. I felt like we were rotating a lot of guys and he’s separating himself a little bit, so he’s gotten a few more carries as we’ve gone on. Our approach this year was the hot hand, so Trevor’s been doing a good job so we’ve been kind of rolling with him. Credit the offensive line, we can’t do that without them, they make that go. If you’re running the ball well, they’re playing well for you.”
Coach Brewer’s squad will face Big Eight opponent Jasper next week and aim to keep their offensive success rolling. The 2-4 Wildcats defeated Princeton on Friday night 28-17, so it may prove to be the Aces biggest challenge of the early season and a significant game for their postseason hopes.