The Paris Tigers manhandled the Salem Wildcats 42-14 in the opening round of the IHSA Playoffs at Tiger Stadium Saturday afternoon, advancing to the second round of the IHSA Class 4A playoffs.
With their victory, Coach Jeremy Clodfelder’s Tigers continue to rewrite the school record books. This is the first time in history Paris has reached the 10-win plateau. This is also the first-ever playoff victory in the school’s rich history. Paris is just one of three teams remaining in class 4A with a perfect mark.
Paris will hit the road for round two, and will face their second consecutive former Apollo Conference foe in the Effingham Hearts. The Hearts are seeded tenth in class 4A, but will host due to IHSA rules. Kickoff is set for 2 pm on Saturday at Effingham High School.
With Tiger Stadium filled to capacity, playing in what can best be described as a college football atmosphere, Paris did not waste any time in lighting up the scoreboard. If there was any tension on the field, on the sideline, or in the stands, it was quickly eased on the first play from scrimmage by the Tigers. Junior tailback Coy Landrum took the handoff from Hunter Newlin and cruised 74-yards for the touchdown, just 0:19 into the game.
It was apparent at that time the Wildcats knew that they were in for a fight. The extra point attempt by Garrett King returning after being injured last week at Flora — was blocked. The Tigers led 6-0.
As if that wasn’t exciting enough, on the ensuing kickoff the Salem returner fumbled the ball and Paris recovered at the Wildcat 38-yard line. Following three consecutive runs by the Tigers, Paris was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed them back to the 39-yard line. Newlin’s first pass attempt was intercepted on the next play and Salem took over at their own 40-yard line.
The Paris defense flexed their muscle on the Wildcat offense on their next two possessions, not allowing a first down on either.
Paris faced a third-and-26 situation before Newlin completed a pass to Mason Hutchings that was just short of the first down marker, forcing the Tigers to punt. One of the Salem defenders knocked Tiger punter Sam Mays to the ground on the kick, drawing a 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty, and giving the Tigers a first down at the Wildcat 44-yard line.
Paris then faced a fourth-and-4 at the Wildcat 14-yard line, but Nathan Zorn was stopped short of the first down.
On Salem’s next possession, facing a fourth down and one, quarterback Rylan Quinn found Brayden Smith for what appeared to be a first down. Smith, however, fumbled the ball, which was scooped up by cornerback Carter Hays and returned to mid-field. Paris was then the beneficiary of a personal foul against Salem and an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Wildcats’ sideline to give the Tigers a first down at the Salem 20-yard line.
Landrum took the handoff from Newlin and scampered up the right sideline diving into the end zone from around the five-yard line for the score. Newlin bulled his way in for the two-point conversion to make the score 14-0.
Salem answered the latest Tiger score on the very next play as Quinn found Bee for a 55-yard touchdown to make the score 14-7 at halftime.
Salem received the ball to start the second half and was forced to punt from the Wildcats own 39-yard line. The snap sailed over the punter’s head and JR Brinkerhoff recovered it for the Tigers at the Salem 31. Four plays later, Nathan Zorn found pay dirt from five yards away for the touchdown. King split the uprights with the extra point and Paris led 21-7.
For the second time in the game, Salem faced a fourth-and-1 at their own 38. The middle of the Tiger defense stuffed Greene and Paris took over on downs.
Two plays later, Newlin floated a pass over the middle of the field and Sam Mays caught it in stride for a 33-yard touchdown. King missed the extra point but Paris led it 27-7 at the midway point of the third period.
With the Wildcats down 20 points, Salem went for it on fourth-and-10 at their own 47-yard line. The pass from Quinn was batted away by Hays and Paris took over on downs.
The Tigers faced a fourth-and-5 of their own on the next drive. Following a Paris timeout, Newlin tucked the ball away and rumbled 32-yards for the score. Newlin then hit Josh Willmoth in the flat for the two-point conversion to give the Tigers the 35-7 lead.
On the next Salem possession, the Wildcats marched from their 34-yard line to mid field. Facing a fourth-and-10, Tiger senior defensive end Cooper Block jumped in front of the pass from Quinn and returned it to the Salem 11-yard line. Paris was unable to punch it in and turned the ball over on downs at the 14.
Salem then marched the length of the field on a 13-play drive to make the score 35-14 with 7:38 left in the game.
The Wildcats tried an onside kick, but Mays recovered the ball at the 49-yard line. Ten plays later, Caleb Mullenix ran the ball in from 13 yards out on the hand off from Caleb Gates for the final score of the game.
Tiger coach Jeremy Clodfelder was extremely proud of the play of his back-up quarterback Hunter Newlin who was forced into the starting role following the injury to quarterback Caleb Gates.
“I want to say one thing about Hunter. He found out today what it’s like to get in the middle of bullets fired and getting coached hard, and he handled it extremely well and got better as the game went along,” the Paris Coach noted. “I am also proud of Caleb Gates. Unfortunate situation to lose your senior leader at this point in the year but, he was talking to Hunter at the end of every series going over things both positive and negative and just giving him confidence along the way. That’s being a leader and showing the kind of culture that we want around here.”
The Tiger defense completely shut down the running attack of Salem the Wildcats relied on for much of this season. Paris held the Wildcats to just 16 rushing yards on 17 attempts. Salem gained 269 yards through the air, but much of that was gained on two big plays.
The Tigers amassed 328 yards on the ground on 52 attempts, while also gaining 94 yards through the air. The Tigers were penalized 10 times for 105 yards — both season-highs.
Newlin was masterful under center going six-for-9 for 94 yards and a touchdown. Landrum had a huge day running the football as he toted the ball 14 times for 165 yards and two scores. Zorn also carried the ball 14 times and gained 68 yards and a score. Newlin was also a weapon in the rushing attack with 13 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown. Mullenix, who was double-teamed all day, managed to gain 24 yards on four carries and he also scored once. Hays carried twice for nine yards, Mays carried twice for three yards, and Hutchings lost a yard on his only carry.
Sam Mays hauled in two passes for 60 yards and a touchdown, Mullenix grabbed three passes for 24 yards, and Hutchings caught oone pass for 10 yards.