FLORA — Perfection.
9-0 and Little Illini Conference champions.
The Paris Tiger football team accomplished something over the last two-and-a-half months that had not been done in the previous 55 seasons — an undefeated season.
Paris traveled to Flora Friday and took care of business in quick fashion, as they throttled the host Wolves by the score of 58-16.
The tone was set on the second play from scrimmage in the first quarter when Coy Landrum took the handoff from quarterback Caleb Gates and took it to the endzone from 58-yards out to put the Tigers up 6-0 — just :042 into the game. Garrett King added the extra point and Paris led 7-0.
Following the first of many three-and-outs forced by the Tiger defense, the second drive was the Hunter Newlin show.
With Gates scheduled to miss most of the game with a broken thumb suffered last week against Robinson, the junior backup quarterback stepped in to run the offense this week.
Newlin reeled off runs of 4 yards and 19-yards before connecting with Sam Mays for a 10-yard completion. Newlin then called his own number and scrambled in from 14 yards out for the touchdown. The extra point was blocked and the Tigers led 13-0 at the 10:20 mark of the first period.
Senior wideout Caleb Mullenix then asserted his authority on the very next Tiger possession, as he scampered 28 yards on a handoff, then ran untouched into the end zone from 19 yards away for another score. King split the uprights this time making it 20-0 halfway through the first quarter, and the rout was on.
As if the first drive of the night wasn’t quick enough, the Tigers scored on the first play of their next possession.
Junior Newlin hit senior wideout Josh Willmoth in stride from 42-yards away for the fourth score in four possessions for Paris. The extra point was once again blocked, but the Tigers led it 27-0 with 4:41 still remaining in the opening quarter.
Not wasting any time on offense on their next drive, the Tiger defense came up with their fifth consecutive three-and-out and forced the Wolves to punt from their own 21-yard line.
Mullenix has a history of returning punts for touchdowns at Flora and Friday night he did not disappoint. The senior wide receiver took the Flora punt and returned it from 61-yards out to make the score 33-0. — still in the first quarter.
Just for good measure, the Tigers punched scored one more time before the first quarter siren went off. This time it was Nathan Zorn who bulled his way in from 10-yards out for the 39th point of the first period.
The stellar Paris defense held Flora without a first down until midway through the second quarter.
With the defense flexing its collective muscle, the offense was still hitting on all cylinders in the second quarter. Newlin continued to share the wealth as he zipped a pass over the middle to Mays from 36-yards away to make the score 46-0 with 10:12 remaining in the first half.
With the game securely in hand, Coach Jeremy Clodfelder turned to a few of his reserve players the rest of the way.
Sophomore receiver/tailback Mason Hutchings got into the scoring column for the Tigers on their next possession, as he sprinted across the goal line from eight yards away to make the score 52-0.
Flora finally lit up the home team side of the scoreboard with just 0:52 left in the first half on a four-yard touchdown run by Johnson. The two-point conversion was successful and the Tigers led at the half, 52-8.
With the continuous clock rule in effect in the second half, each team scored just one time. The Tiger score came on a beautiful pass from sophomore quarterback Danny Perry to Hutchings from 66-yards away to account for the final score for the Tigers.
Flora scored one more time in the second half, the the Wolves just couldn’t handle the Paris offense or defense Friday eveing.
As to expected, Clodfelder was beyond thrilled with what his team accomplished this season.
“It’s almost surreal. To be honest, I felt like this was a place that we could develop into a football town,” the Tiger coach said. “To be sitting here with a perfect 9-0 mark for the first time since 1963, and a conference championship for the first time since 1970 is a little surreal in how fast it’s happened.”
Clodfelder praised his team and their effort so far this season.
“We have some great players, we assembled a pretty good coaching staff, have great facilities, and have a community that supports us tremendously. I’m just so proud for Paris, Illinois, tonight,” he said.
For the eighth time this season, Paris rolled up more than 400 yards of total offense as with 412 on the night — on just just 31 plays.
Newlin was 4-of-4 passing on the night for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Perry completed 2-of-4 in the game for 67 yards and a touchdown as well.
Coy Landrum led the rushing attack with 76-yards and a touchdown. Newlin gained 69 yards and scored once, Mullenix rushed twice for 47-yards and a touchdown. Nathan Zorn carried twice for 38 yards and a score. Gage Comstock toted the ball four times for 18-yards, Hutchings carried twice for 11 yards and a score, Carter Hays carried once for four and Perry carried once for three yards.
Hutchings led the Tigers in receptions with two for 67-yards and a score.Mays caught two passes for 46-yards and a touchdown, Willmoth caught his only target for a 42-yard score and Mullenix grabbed one pass for five yards.
Paris will now play the waiting game to find out who their opponent is in the first round of the IHSA playoffs — and also must wait to find out their class.
With the same enrollment as Clinton High School, the Tigers are right on the cutoff line between 3A and 4A.
The pairings show will air tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports-Chicago. The event will also be carried live on the Paris Sports Network, along with interviews from Clodfelder and several Tiger players.