Opportunities – some are missed while others are taken. On Friday. Oct. 20, the visiting Casey-Westfield Warriors took full advantage of every opportunity that the Paris Tigers gave them on their way to a 35-20 victory.
The loss drops the Tigers to 5-4 overall and 4-3 in the Little Illini Conference while the Warriors finish with an 8-1 record and a 6-1 mark in the LIC. Both teams have earned a berth in the postseason and will learn their week 10 opponents this evening.
Paris won the toss but deferred to the second half giving the Warriors the ball to start the game. The Tiger defense was up for the challenge as they held the high-powered Casey offense (averaging 36 points per game) to a three-and-out on their opening possession. Paris could not capitalize on their first drive and ended up losing eight yards before punting the ball away. Once again, Casey could not muster a first down and punted back to the Tigers.
Following a loss of 10 yards on their first play, quarterback Drew Rogers found Ty King over the middle of the field for a gain of 22 yards, moving the chains for the first time in the game for either team. Facing a third and six at the Casey 45-yard line, Rogers stepped up in the pocket and found Karic Vitale in traffic for a 15-yard catch and another first down. Rogers then found Robert Wells on a third and five at the Warrior 20-yard line. The senior wideout made the catch and tried to reach the end zone, but his knee was down at the one-yard line. Senior tailback Ethan Curl cleaned things up with a one-yard run to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Paris was given another opportunity late in the first quarter as Casey drove the ball deep into Tiger territory only to fumble the ball away. In what was an indicator of things to come in the second quarter, the Tigers quickly returned the favor as Rogers tossed an interception near midfield.
Credit the Tiger defense as they once again held Casey to a three-and-out. The Warriors were able to pin the Tigers deep in their own territory as this drive started at the nine-yard line. However, the Tiger offense lined up in a formation that had not been seen yet this season on their first play from scrimmage. With five wideouts to the left, Rogers looked to throw a screen pass that direction, but Grant Cochonour stepped in the passing lane and scored to tie the score at 7-7 with 8:02 remaining in the first half.
The Tiger offense reeled off three straight plays of ten yards to move the ball into Warrior territory on their ensuing drive. Following a botched handoff between Rogers and Mason Byrnes that was recovered by the Tigers, Rogers was intercepted once again by Connor Sullivan who returned the ball all the way to the Tiger 10-yard line. One play later Clement found Richards to give the visitors a 14-7 lead with 6:47 left in the second quarter.
Paris fumbled on their very next possession to give Casey a first down at the Tiger 20-yard line. The turnover was the fourth of the period for the Tigers. Three plays later, Sullivan found paydirt and just like that the Warriors led it 21-7 with 2:48 remaining in the first half.
Paris came out of the locker room on a mission. Rogers spread the ball around, finding Curl and Wells on drive-lengthening receptions before hitting King down the right sideline for a 52-yard catch and run. King also added the extra point to make the score 21-14 just 38 seconds into the second half. Casey answered with an even shorter scoring drive as Sullivan raced 48 yards on the Warriors’ first play of the second half to double the Tigers at 28-14 with just 52 seconds gone in the third.
With both teams combining for 14 points in the first minute of the second half, the Tigers drew within eight points with no time remaining on the clock to end the third quarter. Following a pass interference call against the Warriors, Rogers found King in the back of the end zone on an untimed down to make the score 28-20. That would be as close as the Tigers would get for the remainder of the game.
Casey salted the game away in the fourth as they chewed 7:31 off of the clock on an 11-play scoring drive to arrive at the final score.
Despite gaining more total yards (267 to 215), the Tigers came out on the short end due in large part to committing five turnovers. Rogers completed 17 of 31 passes for 207 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. King was the beneficiary of more than half of those passing yards as the junior wideout hauled in four catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Wells caught four balls for 45 yards, Vitale also had four grabs for 39 yards, Rigdon caught three for nine yards, Curl and Byrnes each caught one pass apiece.
Not much running room was available to the Tigers on the evening as they carried the ball 28 times for just 60 yards. Curl led the way with 31 yards on 11 tries including a one-yard touchdown to start the scoring. Rogers ended up with 13 yards on ten carries while Rigdon added 15 yards on three totes. Byrnes carried three times for -2 with King gaining three yards on his only touch.
Paris will now wait to see who their opponent will be in the opening round of the Illinois High School Association playoffs with the pairing show taking place tonight at 8 p.m.