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BY CHRIS PATTON
Once the high school football season reaches playoff time, things change.
Most of the games take place on Saturday afternoon instead of Friday night. The stakes are higher. The winning team moves on while the losing team puts the helmets and shoulder pads away. The games are closer because the teams are more evenly matched.
That final thought did not apply to Cerro Gordo-Bement on Saturday.
The Broncos scored the game's first 42 points as CG-B defeated Lawrenceville 42-14 in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs in Cerro Gordo. Coach Andy Kerley’s team made a statement that they don’t care what your record is or what conference you are from, they’ll be ready to put you out of the playoffs.
“We get tired of hearing about being from the Little Okaw and that we can’t compete with the big boys,” Kerley said. “Our kids have a bit of a chip on their shoulders and we decided to get after it. When we decide to get after it, good things happen for us.”
The Broncos improved to 10-0 on the season, while Lawrenceville finished the year 7-3.
CG-B moves on to face Camp Point Central in the second round. The Panthers of the Western Illinois Valley Conference’s North Division advanced with a 40-29 victory over Okaw Valley Conference member Argenta-Oreana. The game will be played Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Camp Point.
Tailback Steve Isbell has excelled all season long, but the junior appeared to take his game to a higher level under the bright lights of the playoff stage. Isbell carried the ball 11 times for 245 yards with four touchdowns – just in the first half. Isbell only made a brief appearance on special teams in the second half.
Kerley was quick to compliment Isbell, but also his offensive line for giving the star back room to run.
“Our line, I could’ve gained yards with some of those holes,” Kerley joked. “Stevie is a good back and if you give him 10 yards unblocked, that is not fair.”
While the Broncos are definitely a run-first ballclub, they have begun to attack teams by throwing the ball. Quarterback Cole Blickensderfer completed 5 of 8 pass attempts, with two passes going for touchdowns. The junior connected on his first four pass attempts.
“It’s easy to call plays when you’re doing things right like today,” Kerley said.
Just over three minutes into the game, Isbell scored his first touchdown on a 20-yard run. The Broncos attempted a trick play while trying for the two-point conversion, but the effort failed and CG-B led 6-0.
After Lawrenceville’s offense could not pick up a first down in three plays, the Broncos took the ball back. The five-play drive ended when Dee Woods caught Blickensderfer’s pass, hurdled a defender, and rumbled 41 yards for a touchdown. Isbell scored on the two-point conversion and CG-B led 14-0 with 5:22 left in the first quarter.
The Broncos' defense gave the visiting Indians virtually nothing. Lawrenceville did not snap the ball in Broncos territory until over halfway through the second quarter.
Isbell continued to run around, past and through would-be tacklers. The elusive runner scored his second touchdown of the night on a 55-yard jaunt with 2:02 left in the first quarter. Jensen Bailey’s extra point put the home squad up 21-0.
If being down three touchdowns wasn’t bad enough for Lawrenceville, things were about to get worse. The Indians fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by CG-B defensive back Jacob Weedman.
In a rare misstep, the Broncos struggled with penalties on the next drive. The Broncos were flagged for holding and an illegal shift, before Lawrenceville recovered a Woods fumble.
The Indians took possession at their own 10-yard line and were able to advance the ball near midfield, but the CG-B defense held and forced a punt.
CG-B wasted no time increasing its lead, needing only one play as Isbell ran for a 73-yard touchdown and a 28-0 Bronco lead.
On its next drive, Lawrenceville finally made it inside the Broncos’ side of the field. But on fourth and 3, quarterback Zach Shoulders was corralled by Broncos defenders Cole Tenney and Bailey Runyen.
Isbell found the end zone again, this time from 44 yards out, to give CG-B a 35-0 lead in the second quarter.
The teams traded empty possessions before CG-B got the ball back at its own 44-yard line with just 21 seconds remaining before halftime. For an offense like the Broncos', 21 seconds is an eternity.
After an incomplete pass on first down, Blickensderfer found C.J. Somers for a 56-yard touchdown with just five seconds left on the clock, and the teams left the field for the locker room with CG-B leading 42-0.
Lawrenceville was able to finally get on the board in the fourth quarter against the Broncos' junior varsity defense. With 7:33 left in the game, Cole Hulen scored from 3 yards out to give the Indians their first points of the night.
Three minutes later, Shoulders called his own number and scrambled in from the 13-yard line. After Hulen successfully completed the two-point conversion, the final score of 42-14 was reached.
Kyle Gideon, Andy Maltby and Tyce Rittenhouse led the CG-B defense with seven tackles each. Jordan Crist and Gage Fowler chipped in six tackles apiece.
The Broncos are in for a long trip when they travel to Camp Point for the second round showdown. The 150-mile journey will eclipse the Broncos' road trip to Bunker Hill earlier this season.
“At this point, we’ll play anyone, anywhere, any time,” Kerley said. “I’m not worried about the trip. Going to Bunker Hill gives us a lot of experience of sitting on a bus. This time, we’ll take a charter and probably watch a movie. It doesn’t matter what time the game is or where it is, these guys just want to play.”