PEORIA — Josh Schellenberg and his Washington teammates brought the fight to host Richwoods in the Class 5A state football quarterfinals on Saturday.
Schellenberg ran for 107 yards and three touchdowns and the Panthers scored three times in the fourth quarter of a 35-21 victory over the Knights at Endres Field.
The win sent Washington (10-2) to the state semifinals for the fourth time in school history and first since 2013.
The Panthers will host Mid-Illini rival Dunlap (12-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Babcook Field. Dunlap, a 28-14 winner over Washington in Week 5 on the same field, advanced with a 24-6 victory over Country Club Hills Hillcrest.
“Of course, that’s something we always have game-planned; to come out and hit them in the mouth,” Schellenberg said of Washington's power running game.
Schellenberg’s final touchdown run, a 15-yard scamper with 8:11 left in the game, gave Washington a 21-14 edge.
On the ensuing kickoff, as they had all game, Washington squib kicked and no Richwoods player fell on the ball. Brendan Durr recovered the ball for the Panthers.
“Those weren’t onside kicks, we were just trying to keep the ball out of (A.J. Johnson’s) hands,” said Washington coach Darrell Crouch. “And then they threw (Sharod Danage) back there, so we tried to keep it out of his hands. We just wanted to keep those two out of the mix and not give up a big play was all that was.”
Washington capitalized on the special teams' prevent defense. Caleb Fisher threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Logan Klein for a 28-14 lead with 6:43 left in the game.
“It was going to be whoever blinked first and we blinked first on the fumbled kickoff, but you can’t blame it on that,” Richwoods coach Roland Brown said. “If you’re good enough, then you stop them.”
Richwoods' defense had done that, stuffing the inside run, until Washington adjusted.
“I thought our defense played really, really, really well today,” said Brown. “That was a tremendous, hard-hitting, bang, get-after-it game. It was not a 35-21 game, it was a seven-point game.”
Washington responded by running toss plays to the outside, usually wherever 6-foot-8, 245-pound tackle J.J. Guedet lined up. Guedet sealed the edge on several big runs, including Sam Walter’s 45-yard, game-clinching touchdown run. Crouch called for the play several plays earlier and it went for a touchdown, but it was called back.
“Yeah, we went to a rocket toss and for a different look, too,” said Crouch. “They have to figure out where they have to lineup. That’s the first time that we’ve jumped in and ran that this year. Then we just got back into some pro and twins just to get some of their extra guys out of the box.”
Johnson finished with 130 yards of total offense, including 51 rushing yards in the first half and 79 receiving yards on seven catches for the Knights (7-5). His 46-yard run in the first half set up one of T’Nahleg Hall’s two touchdown runs. Johnson also caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Keenan Streitmatter in the fourth quarter.
One week after setting a single-game, state playoff rushing record with 427 yards, Hall was held to 74 yards on 25 carries.
Aaron Ferguson can be reached at 686-3207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Sports_Aaron.