Milledgeville coach Jason Wroble thought his Missiles played well Saturday in their Illinois 8-Man Football Association quarterfinal against West Central, but the Heat still pulled out a 38-14 victory.
Milledgeville led 8-6 with 4:12 left in the first quarter after Connor Nye’s 12-yard scoring strike to Bryce Aude, then tied the game 14-14 with 4:50 left before halftime on Kolton Wilk’s 1-yard touchdown run.
The Missiles were then driving again late in the second quarter to retake the lead, but a tipped pass was intercepted. On the ensuing possession, West Central’s Mason Carnes connected on a 45-yard scoring pass to Kaiden Droste with 33.6 seconds left to give the Heat a 22-14 lead at halftime.
“We were going in [to score] late in the first half, and they made a nice play and tipped a pass for an interception,” Milledgeville coach Jason Wroble said. “Then we stopped them on the first two plays and made them pass on third down, but we missed an interception. We stuffed their running back on fourth down, but somehow he managed to squirt out of there for the first down, and they score a long touchdown. That changed the game.
“I felt like we dominated the first half and we were still down by eight at halftime. Then in the second half, they found their running game and tightened the screws on defense, and we couldn’t get anything going.”
Wroble said the wind played a factor, as Milledgeville likes to pass more than West Central, and mentioned that there was one play in particular where Kacen Johnson was wide open behind the defense, but the wind pushed Connor Nye’s just a few yards too far down the field for an incompletion instead of a touchdown catch.
Droste scored his third rushing touchdown with 4:24 left in the third quarter for a 30-14 lead, then Carnes ran in from 3 yards out with 3:47 left in the game to finish the scoring.
Nye ran 20 times for 107 yards, and threw for 19 yards and a score; he also had 13 tackles on defense. Wilk ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, and Aude caught three passes for 27 yards and the TD. Eric Ebersole led the Missiles with 15 tackles, and Cayden Akers (13) and Bruce Raymond (10) also had double-digit stops.
Droste finished with 28 rushes for 174 yards and three touchdowns, with scoring sprints of 34 and 46 yards in the first quarter. Parker Meldrum ran 18 times for 74 yards for West Central, and Carnes ran for 62 yards and a touchdown while passing for 51 yards and a score. Droste had all three receptions for the Heat.
“We made some mistakes in the second half, and they were getting 3 or 4 yards per carry, and we had a hard time getting off the field on defense,” Wroble said. “Their running back is slippery and hard to put down, and there were several times when we were in the backfield and a play that should’ve been a loss turned into a 5-yard gain for them. We just couldn’t come up with the big play when we needed it, and West Central did.”
The Heat will travel to Polo to take on the two-time defending I8FA state champion Marcos in a semifinal game ne