Theories collide in 2A quarterfinal conflict
MOMENCE – Driving home from Saturday's 2A quarterfinal game, we passed a billboard for some church organization.
Included on the billboard was a symbol representing evolution with a red slash through it.
Evolution and creationism are two rival theories explaining how and why we are here.
I'll let you decide what you believe in, but the contrasting theories on existence was a perfect bookend to a day that featured a game displaying two starkly different theories on football.
Theory A: Ground, pound, repeat.
By now, most of you know exactly what I am going to say next.
The Newman Comet theory on football starts with one basic philosophy – run the ball, and run the ball very hard.
The Comets did that on Saturday in their 34-33 quarterfinal win over Momence.
The most telling statistic was the time of possession. Newman controlled the ball for 32 minutes, 27 seconds. Momence had it for 15:23.
In the second half, the ratio seemed even more out of whack despite Momence's furious fourth quarter comeback.
Newman opened the third quarter with a drive that went 90 yards on 16 plays and ate up 8:25 of precious time on the clock.
"Actually, that was what Coach Papoccia told us to do," Newman sophomore Brady Rude said. "He actually told us to take 9 minutes on the drive, so we came up a little short. But we scored, so it was all good."
The time was even more precious than usual for Momence, who had hoped to use the wind at its back that quarter to help its pass-heavy offense.
Instead, the Redskins had the ball for two plays – and 44 seconds – the entire quarter.
"I thought when we came out in the third quarter with that long drive that we had broke their backs," Newman's Mike Papoccia said. "We had came out planning to throw more, but there wasn't any point. The line was blocking so well, and the backs were running hard."
Theory B: The Throw Show.
As impressive as the Newman opening drive of the second half was, Momence didn't hesitate to answer in its own manner.
The Redskins put the ball in the hands of 6-foot-5, 215-pound quarterback Aaron Cantwell.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, the big fella hit Zach Hamman in stride, and he took the ball into the end zone from 59 yards out.
"The quarterback played an amazing game," Papoccia said. "He was a big kid, and he made the big throws."
The score was 28-20 at that point.
Newman went up 34-20 after another long-ish drive, this one an 11-play, 56-yard possession that took up 4:51 and included a first-down conversion after two penalties left the Comets with a second-and-33 from the Momence 44.
"We always like those long drives; they give us confidence," junior Dillan Heffelfinger said. "It gives the offense a boost, and usually gives the defense a boost, too."
They seemed to have the game in hand, but the Redskins were able to score two touchdowns in the last 3:30 of the game.
A swing pass on the final 2-point conversion that was sniffed out by Brady Rude and Michael Ely was the difference between a Comets' win and long, sad drive back to Sterling.
"It was two different styles," Papoccia said. "We were running all over, and they were throwing it all over. I thought we'd make more plays on defense tonight, but the offense stepped in and delivered exactly what was needed."
So, which theory is right?
I don't know. I'll let you believe what you will.
I do know this: The Comets style was one point better on Saturday, and that's all that matters.
Next Saturday, the Comets will test their theory again, this time at Roscoe Eades Stadium against the defending 2A champs in Mercer County.
The winning theory will go to DeKalb. The losing one will get put away until next August.