Williamsville football carries large playoff expectations right past Beardstown

Ryan Mahan
State Journal-Register
Williamsville's Jake Seman (4) drops back for a pass against North Mac in the first half at North Mac High School in Virden, Ill., Friday, October 1, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

WILLIAMSVILLE — Williamsville was able to overcome two third-quarter turnovers with stout defense and pull away from Beardstown in a 43-22 win in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs at Paul Jenkins Field on Saturday afternoon. 

The Bullets’ junior quarterback, Jake Seman, rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 161 yards and two more scores as the fourth-seeded Sangamo Conference champs advanced to host No. 5 Fairfield in the second round.  

Fairfield (9-1, like Williamsville) beat Hoopeston 26-0, also on Saturday.  

Williamsville prevents errors from being costly 

Williamsville emerged from halftime with a 21-15 lead and the ball. The Bullets marched from their own 30 to the 18 of Beardstown. On first-and-10, Seman’s throw was intercepted by the Tigers’ Jeremy Mahfina.  

But Williamsville’s defense held firm and forced a Beardstown punt.  

Jake Seman

Four plays later, Seman scampered in for a 7-yard touchdown then ran in a two-point conversion to push the Bullets’ lead to 29-15.  

“Obviously, our goal isn’t to turn the ball over but if we can turn it over and then know our defense can come get a stop and not give up the lead or all momentum, then that is really big,” Seman said. 

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Following a Beardstown punt, Williamsville’s Mason Lyttaker lost the ball as he was hit. But once again, the Bullets’ defense buckled down and Beardstown turned the ball over on downs at the Williamsville 21. 

Williamsville didn’t score on the ensuing possession, but the defense proved it could handle what Beardstown was doing. 

Williamsville makes adjustments on defense 

Beardstown’s sophomore running back Christy Domitien and the Tigers’ offensive line were able to dominate the trenches for the first quarter and a half.  And Domitien was a workhorse, finishing with 29 carries and 150 yards rushing.  

Beardstown used a man in motion but routinely gave it to Domitien in the fullback role and he forced his will. On the Tigers’ opening drive, he had seven carries for 56 yards and scored on a 3-yard run to give Beardstown a 7-0 lead nearly midway through the first period.  

He had eight more carries and 47 additional yards on a 13-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 3-yard run by Owen Quigley as the Tigers went up 15-7 with 9 minutes, 15 seconds left in the half.  

But that was Beardstown’s last score for almost 24 minutes after Williamsville went to a four-man defensive front instead of its three-man front.  

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“It was unexpected for them to come out so strong and we came out flat,” Williamsville linebacker Colin Ripperda said. “We made some adjustments where it mattered … and I think it really helped.” 

Williamsville coach Aaron Kunz said Beardstown did things the Bullets hadn’t seen on game film exchanged in advance of the playoff game.  

“(Christy Domitien) was a load. He was patient,” Kunz said. “Basically, they were pulling and he was running where they (Beardstown’s blockers) were leaving from. It was something we hadn’t seen them do (on film), but man there was holes early for them.  

“Our 'D' came up big with some big stops after some turnovers and some silly penalties — things we have to be better at.” 

Beardstown first-year coach Elliott Craig said Saturday was the perfect storm of a very good opponent which also had the benefit of more personnel.  

“Our kids were pretty resilient,” Craig said. “That’s a really, really good; I think they’re a semifinalist-type team — if not farther. They are very difficult.  

“The pace they go and the formations they do, it’s hard and I think what you saw in the second half was: they dressed 70, I dressed 35. (Williamsville has) very few guys playing both ways and basically, we have eight or nine (playing offense and defense) and that takes a toll after a while.” 

Williamsville has lofty expectations 

Lyttaker caught a 28-yard pass from Seman midway through the second quarter and the Bullets pulled within 15-13 (the two-point conversion attempt failed) and went ahead on a 67-yard pass to a streaking Will Kistner near the end of the first half.  

“It looks easy, but that is one of the hardest plays in football to throw it that far down the field, catch it without even slowing down and score while you’re double-covered,” Kunz said. “It was a heck of a play, and it was a huge momentum-grab for us.” 

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Technically, the Bullets are the defending Class 3A state champions from their 2019 state title. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no playoffs — and a shortened, six-game spring schedule — during the 2020-21 school year.  

Seman and Ripperda said even though the majority of the players from that 2019 title team have graduated, the expectations at Williamsville are still big.  

“Expectations is definitely a big thing. We’re expected to go far in the playoffs now,” Seman said.  

Williamsville's Colin Ripperda (6) celebrates a fumble recovery against North Mac in the second half at North Mac High School in Virden, Ill., Friday, October 1, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Ripperda said they feel the anticipation of a deep postseason run from the Williamsville and Sherman communities — in a good way.  

“The community is expecting a lot out of us, and we obviously want to go as far as we can and make the community proud,” Ripperda said. “We’re a really tight-knit community. We’re out here, we’re a completely different team and we’re trying our best. 

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“We have a lot of new expectations now and we’re expected to get far every year now. It puts a lot of pressure on us, but I think it’s good pressure; it’s motivating.” 

Contact Ryan Mahan: 857-246-9756, ryan.mahan@sj-r.com, Twitter.com/RyanMahanSJR.