COAL CITY – Both host Coal City and Sandwich sported 2-2 records entering Friday night’s Interstate Eight Conference Large contest and both needed a victory to enhance their hopes for a playoff berth.
The Coalers, returning home after a big win at Herscher last week, were looking for their first win in front of the home crowd. Their two wins entering Friday night had been on the road. Coal City found the home field to its liking, blanking Sandwich 28-0.
It took a little while for the Coalers to give the home fans something to cheer about.
After a scoreless first quarter, Coal City’s Parker Czaja scored from two yards out on the first play of the second. The touchdown was set up by a catch by Lane Cowherd on a pass from Brennan Shetina for a 34-yard gain on third down.
After the Coal City defense forced Sandwich to punt, Shetina hit Steve Purdy with a swing pass behind the line. Purdy stepped out of a tackle and raced down the sideline for a 23-yard gain to the Indians’ 30.
Facing 4th-and-2, Coal City drew Sandwich offsides, setting up first-and-goal from the 5. Shetina kept the ball and went around the right side for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead after Cowherd’s kick, a lead they took into halftime.
Meanwhile, the Coal City defense was stingy as a miser, allowing Sandwich just 50 yards and three first downs in the first half. Between the effectiveness of the defense and the ineffectiveness of the Sandwich special teams, the Coalers offense spent most of the first half in Indians territory.
“All around, that was our best game all year,” Coal City coach Lenny Onsen said. “Our offensive numbers may not be huge, but that’s because our special teams pinned them deep in their end and our defense stopped them, giving us good field position. I will take that every game.”
The Coalers (3-2, 2-1) kept the pressure on defensively in the second half. Midway through the third quarter, Riley Kauzlauric sacked Sandwich quarterback Daulton Murphy, causing a fumble. Coal City’s Salvador Velasco scooped it up and ran 35 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
“What a thrill for Sal,” Onsen said. “That’s every defensive lineman’s dream.”
In the fourth quarter, Shetina found Purdy over the middle for 21 yards on 3rd-and-18 for a first down at the Sandwich 3. Two plays later, Shetina spun in from two yards out and 28-0 lead with 7:34 to play, providing the final margin.