CHICAGO – Throughout its history, Seneca has won 15 games in the football playoffs, including five in 1990 when it captured the Class 2A state championship.
Saturday's 46-6 defeat of Robeson at Gately Stadium in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs is the largest margin of victory in a playoff game ever for the Fighting Irish. It breaks a 24-year-old record. Before, their biggest blowout was a 35-6 win over LeRoy in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs in 1989.
The Seneca offense needed two plays to take the lead for good. Following a Robeson punt and a first-down play that went nowhere, Bo Taylor broke off for a 91-yard touchdown run less than four mintues into the game.
"It was a 45 lead, so it would've been a lead to the left," Taylor said. "My guys just made some good blocks and I ended up cutting back, and I just ran. I almost got caught there at the end, but for some reason I didn't get tackled."
Taylor scored again from 9 yards out, as did teammate Tommy Lovett from 53, before the first quarter ended. Seneca's fourth touchdown, which came with 4:19 left in the second quarter, was a 5-yard Taylor run. It was quickly answered by Robeson's only score – an 80-yard Marcell Nichols kickoff return.
Lovett scored twice in the second half – on a 4-yard run with 4:19 left in the third quarter, and on a 31-yard run with 7:44 left in the fourth. Alex Thornley's 26-yard touchdown run, coupled with an Alex Applebee extra-point kick, invoked the running clock with 2:02 to play.
Officially the Irish did not attempt a pass, though they did have one pass thrown backward and another on a two-point conversion attempt. Their 54-carry, 454-yard rushing output negated the need for balance. Lovett had 206 yards on 22 rushes, with Taylor totaling 180 yards on 17 touches.
"It's not just me and [Taylor]. It's our linemen for sure," Lovett said. "We're just told to run behind them. We have full faith. I think we have some of the best linemen in the state right now, and I have complete hope that they'll get the job done."
Robeson attempted 15 passes, completing five for 95 yards, and rushed 21 times for 84 yards. Seneca coach Ted O'Boyle thought his team's 54-6 Week 9 loss to Manteno may have influenced the Raiders' play selection.
"They took our Manteno tape, so I know obviously if you watch that, you're gonna throw a lot," O'Boyle said. "Obviously tough conditions to throw out here today, with the wind like it was, so it played a little bit into our favor. ... I just thought we played very sound today, which is what we needed to do."
Even when the Raiders had success offensively, they could not capitalize. Their first drive of the second half advanced as far as the Seneca 1-yard line before the Irish held and forced a turnover on downs. A Raiders pass late in the second quarter produced a big gain, but Irish defensive back Baley Lejawa forced a fumble on the play that 220-pound Seneca linebacker Brad Wyss recovered 69 yards from the line of scrimmage.
"They threw a seam route to I think it was their slot, and our corner or other safety, he tried picking it off. He had a perfect play and it just slipped right through his hands. The kid bobbled it and caught it," Wyss said. "[Lejawa] came up, good hustle and punched it out. He had him tackled down and there was nobody else there, so I just picked it up, and I slipped. Should've ran.
"[We] tried putting them in throwing situations. If we stopped the run, we felt we had a really good chance of winning it."
Seneca will host two-time defending state champion Aurora Christian for a Class 3A quarterfinal game Saturday, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m.