COAL CITY – The Coal City football team used the combination of a strong running attack, solid defense and five touchdown passes from quarterback Braden Reilly to earn its sixth win of the season with a 41-6 Illinois Central Eight Conference victory over the Streator Bulldogs on Friday night.
Coal City, which already figured to be in the playoffs, improved to 6-3 and 5-2 in the league, while Streator finished the season 3-6 and 1-6. The Coalers are now 8-0 all-time against Streator.
Reilly finished 6-of-6 passing for 146 yards, the hosts ran for 214 yards, and the defense gave up 224 total yards, including only 81 yards on 37 rushing tries by the Bulldogs.
The one blemish on the night was when leading rusher and senior Ashton Harvey left the game midway through the second quarter with an injury and did not return.
“It’s been a tough season, and it has been a challenging season, but this team is tested for sure,” said Coal City head coach Francis Loughran, whose club faced Morris and Bishop McNamara to start the season before a brutal ICE schedule. “It may be an outside chance we get a home [playoff] game, but if not, we’ll go on the road and battle as hard as we can.
“Streator is a tough team to face defensively because of the talent they have at the skilled spots and also the fact that their offense with the passing game is quite a bit different than any other team in the conference. We also had some subs in our secondary tonight, but I thought they all stepped up and did a great job in slowing them down for the most part.”
The Bulldogs drove from their own 18 to the Coal City 38 in 10 plays to open the game before losing the ball on a fumble. The Coalers then used an eight-play drive, finished by an 11-yard TD run by Chase Adams (nine carries, 86 yards), to make it 7-0.
The next four Bulldogs’ possessions ended in a loss on downs, two punts and an interception. Meanwhile, Coal City ballooned its lead on Reilly TD passes to Nick Seplack from 13 and 19 yards and Keegan Crater from 13 to lead, 34-0.
Streator, which was missing several players including offensive standouts Aneefy Ford and Seth Miles, scored its first points against Coal City since 2015 (21 quarters) when sophomore QB Christian Benning (11-of-30, 143 yards, TD, two INTs) hit Cade Stevens (five receptions, 83 yards) on a 30-yard scoring pass with just less than two minutes before halftime.
“What our kids were able to do tonight shorthanded makes me proud,” Streator head coach Kyle Tutt said. “On the opening drive, I felt we were setting the tone for what we wanted to accomplish, but then we fell back into what we’ve done the past few weeks with turning the ball over. It was deflating. It took us a while to bounce back, but we started to grind things out again right before halftime. Then we just weren’t able to get anything going consistently in the second half.
“We asked our seniors to do a lot from this past spring to tonight. The wins didn’t come the way they would have liked, but they did the right things. We did some things well this season, now we have to build on those while also getting better at the things we struggled at.
“I think we’ll be an even more improved team next season.”
The only points in the second half came on Reilly’s fifth TD pass – a 57-yard pitch and catch to Aydan Murphey – of the game with 7:55 left in the third.
Harvey had 54 yards rushing on 10 carries before his injury, and Seplak finished with 51 yards on six tries. Streator RB Darryl Gullens had 54 tough yards on 20 carries, while Stevens added 37 on five carries.
“We were able to get Streator’s defense sucked in to stop the run, those routes were open, and we had good pass protection on all five,” Loughran said of the passing attack. “[Reilly] put the ball on the numbers every time, and our receivers did a good job of making the catch and then breaking a couple of tackles.”