For the first time since 1970, the Paris Tigers have earned at least a share of a conference title.
The Tigers took care of business on Senior Night at Tiger Stadium Friday with a 48-0 drubbing of the Robinson Maroons. The victory also marks the third consecutive win in the Crawford/Edgar County Shrine game.
With the victory, the Tigers remain perfect with an 8-0 mark, which is tops in the Little Illini Conference. Robinson, under the leadership of former Paris Tiger Casey Pinnell, falls to 2-6 on the season, and 2-5 in the LIC.
Whether the weather was a factor in the sluggish start or not, neither team was able to generate much offense on Friday night.
Paris broke the 0-0 tie by getting on the scoreboard first as Caleb Gates found wide receiver Caleb Mullenix wide open for a 17-yard score with 3:26 remaining in the first quarter. This would not be the final time that this duo would hook up on the night and the Tigers led 6-0 following a missed extra point.
Neither team could muster any offense for the next nine plus minutes of game time action.
Paris finally got things rolling following an interception by Mullenix near midfield.
The Tigers kept that drive alive on a key third-and-5 pass play from Gates to Nathan Zorn good for 20 yards.
Five plays later, Gates bulled his way into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the Tigers led 12-0 with 2:27 left in the half.
Even with such little time left in the half, Paris was far from finished scoring.
Coach Jeremy Clodfelder used his one of his timeouts on the ensuing Robinson drive. After the Tiger defense stopped the Maroons, Paris got the ball back with 1:38 left.
Gates found Mullenix once again on the first play from scrimmage, this time from 66 yards out for the score. Gates hit Coy Landrum in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion, and the Tigers led it 20-0.
Paris used great clock management on the next Robinson drive, and forced a punt with just eight seconds left in the half. Mullenix pulled the hat-trick by scoring his third touchdown of the half, this time on a 54-yard punt return to make the score 26-0 at the half.
Clodfelder acknowledged his team was not playing up to their standards in the early going.
“We got started kind of slowly and we’ve got to work on getting that fixed. We just weren’t settled in,” Clodfelder said. “With just two minutes and some change left, we got two big stops, and Mullenix busted the big punt return to give us some momentum.”
Paris won the coin toss to open the game, but deferred possession to the second half. The Tigers began with their worst field position of the night, their own 23-yard line.
This drive was pretty much the Coy Landrum show. The junior tailback picked up nine and 13 yards on consecutive carries. On the second carry, a Robinson player was called for targeting which tacked on 15-yards to the end of the run. Landrum capped off the drive with a 33-yard bolt for the touchdown.
When things are going your way, they are going your way as the snap from center sailed right into the hands of kicker Garrett King. King then scrambled to his right and found Sam Mays in the end zone for the two-point conversion making the score 32-0 with 10:44 remaining in the third period.
Robinson mounted their longest drive of the night on their next possession. But a huge fourth-and-1 stop by the Tiger defense at their own 20-yard line gave Paris the ball back on downs.
Paris was without senior quarterback Caleb Gates the rest of the way as Gates injured his thumb.
Junior backup Hunter Newlin stepped in to pilot the Tigers the rest of the way and ran the Tiger offense.
Paris began its next drive at their own 21-yard line on a seven yard run by Willmoth, a nine yard pass to Mullenix and an eight-yard run by Newlin. Carter Hays hauled in a pass on the Tiger sideline and weaved his way for an 11-yard gain.
Following an unsportsmanlike penalty against the Tigers, the ball was moved all the way back to the Paris 20-yard line, making it first-and 35. Newlin hit Mullenix over the middle for a 25-yard gain, and then found Sam Mays for 10-yards to pick up the first down. Three plays later, Newlin hit Mays near the pylon for an eight-yard touchdown. King tacked on the extra point, and the running clock was set in motion as the Tigers led it 41-0.
After forcing yet another punt by Robinson, the next drive belonged to wide receiver Josh Willmoth.
Newlin found the senior wideout on three consecutive pass plays, covering 10, 15, and 11-yards. The connection of Newlin to Mays hooked up once again, this time from 31-yards out to arrive at the final score of 48-0.
“This group of seven seniors were perfect on the road last year, and this year so far, we are perfect everywhere. I told them that I would just as soon go perfect the rest of the way.”
For the seventh time this season, the Tigers racked up over 400 yards of total offense as they went for 444 last night. Gates completed six-of-7 passing for 143 yards and two touchdowns before exiting with that thumb injury. Newlin was perfect on the evening, completing all nine of his passing attempts for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns as well. Mullenix continued his stellar play as he snagged five catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns, to go along with his 54-yard punt return for a score. Willmoth hauled in five passes for 71 yards, Mays added three catches for 49 yards and two touchdowns, Nathan Zorn caught one pass for 20 yards, and Hays caught one ball for 11 yards.
Landrum led the rushing attack with 60 yards and a touchdown on just five carries. Zorn toted the ball seven times for 31 yards, Hays had a pair of carries for 24 yards, Newlin ran twice for 22 yards, Mullenix carried twice for 14 yards, Gates added four carries for 13 yards and a score, and Willmoth carried once for seven. The Tiger defense held Robinson to just 141 yards of total offense, and forced a pair of turnovers.
Paris will look to make history on Friday night as they travel to Flora to face the 1-7 Wolves. With a victory, the Tigers will clinch the Little Illini Conference outright and celebrate their first conference title since 1963.