FCW Falcons tame LWHS Wildcats in season opener, 46-16

FLANAGAN — Like this football season, it took Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland a little while to get going Saturday afternoon in its Illinois 8-Man Football Association opener against the Lowpoint-Washburn/Henry-Seanchwine Wildcats.

Once the Falcons did get going, though, they — like we all hope this season will be — were excellent.

FCW put up 22 points in the second quarter to take control, dismissing LWHS by a 46-16 final score here under sunny skies Saturday in Flanagan.

Running back J.D. Ruddy ran for 118 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion and added 62 receiving yards and another score. Quarterback Dallas Hamilton was 5-of-11 for 136 yards and a TD passing and added two rushing touchdowns, William Weber added 42 yards rushing with a TD and a 2PAT on offense while on defense recording fumble recovery and two tackles for losses, and lone FCW senior Kyle Uhl recorded two tackles for losses and recovered a fumble in the victory.

“It always feels great to be able to play, but with us not knowing if we would have a season or be able to play at all, it feels amazing. We’re back, FCW football is back, and all of us are excited to play.”

—  FCW senior all-state lineman Kyle Uhl

“It always feels great to be able to play,” said Uhl after ringing the program’s victory bell, “but with us not knowing if we would have a season or be able to play at all, it feels amazing.

“We’re back, FCW football is back, and all of us are excited to play.”

Amidst a turnover-plagued start for both teams, the Falcons (1-0) managed to hold onto the ball long enough to score once in the opening quarter — an 18-yard TD run from Weber and ensuing Hamilton-to-Phoenix Cooper 2PAT completion — to take an 8-0 advantage into the second.

FCW made up for its slow start in the second period, however, scoring on a 2-yard Hamilton keeper, a weaving 30-yard run from Ruddy (Jesse Simpson 2PAT run) and a beautiful 54-yard passing strike from Hamilton to Ruddy (Weber 2PAT run) with just under two minutes left to carry a 30-0 lead into the halftime break.

“Being relatively young this year with only one senior and a lot of new faces in the program, especially skill players, we have a lot of weapons on offense, but we’re still trying to figure out how to use them as the season continues,” Falcons head coach Todd Reed said. “It’s exciting for the future.

“It’s great to be playing this year, even through this COVID season.”

The Falcons would add another score in the third — an 11-yard sweep from No. 11, Hamilton, followed by a Ruddy 2PAT — before the Wildcats put together their most successful and impressive drive of the day.

It was a 10-minute-and-15-second, 17-play, 81-yard undertaking which ended with senior running back Kyle Beltramea in the end zone from three yards out and LWHS with its first points of the new season. Fullback Jesse Knecht added an exclamation-point 2PAT plunge, and it was 38-8 with 3:50 remaining.

Each team would add one more score, including a 55-yard sprint from Ruddy, to account for the 46-16 final.

FCW outgained LWHS 345-138 in yards from scrimmage — including 209-110 on the ground — though the Wildcats did cut into that deficit as the game progressed and the second-year program found its footing a bit.

“It feels great to get out here and play, it’s just weird doing it in the spring.”

—  LWHS head football coach Tony Davis

Knecht with 55 yards rushing on seven carries plus a 6-yard reception, Brady Neuhalfen with 3-of-10 passing for 22 yards and Gavin Fitton with 30 yards rushing paced the offense.

Knecht and Fitton were forces defensively too: Knecht tallying a fumble recovery, a pass defensed and a sack; while Fitton recorded a fumble recovery, two quarterback sacks and two tackles for losses.

“It feels great to get out here and play, it’s just weird doing it in the spring,” said Wildcats head coach Tony Davis.

“[Starting slow and finishing strong] is sort of the story of our program so far. We did the same thing last year ... it took us a little while, and it should be quicker this year, but we’re still inexperienced. It’s going to take us a few weeks to get back into it, but we’ll be OK.”

LWHS returns to Flanagan — its home field this season while the field in Washburn is finished — next Saturday to host River Ridge. FCW has a Friday night home game at Woodland against St. Thomas More.

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. is a graduate of Streator High School, Illinois Valley Community College and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale who is some 22 years into an award-winning sports journalism career.