And then there were three.
For the second straight year, Dixon, Newman and Sterling remain as the last trio of local football teams left in the playoffs. The local field was halved from six teams in the second round, as Fulton, Milledgeville and West Carroll all lost this past Saturday.
Dixon’s quarterfinal appearance will be its second; the other trip came in 2006 when the Dukes lost to Woodstock Marian. Newman will make its 16th appearance in the quarterfinals, where the Comets are 9-6 since 1989. Sterling will try for its first quarterfinal win in seven total trips.
Here are some numbers of note from the second round of the playoffs:
Fulton’s rushing game came up absolutely empty in its 30-6 home loss to Forreston, who set a pair of defensive bests on the season.
Forreston held the Steamers to minus-11 rushing yards, besting a low of 17 set in Week 9 against Amboy.
Fulton had a better time throwing the ball, but tallied 121 yards. The 110 total yards allowed by the Cardinals is also a season best, 21 yards lower than a Week 7 win against Galena.
Dixon’s balance of rushing and passing yardage became more one-sided in the Dukes’ 35-21 home win over Genoa-Kingston, with exactly three times as many passing yards as rushing yards.
Arthur Cox had all of Dixon’s 89 rushing yards against the Cogs, and Noah Wilcox had all of the Dukes’ 267 passing yards.
In Dixon’s 63-26 win over Rockford Christian in Week 3, there were 2.89 times as many passing yards as rushing yards – which is the next-closest ratio of pass-to-run.
Despite bowing out with a loss, West Carroll held Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley to a season-low 24 points.
Defense had been the Thunder’s strength all season. The second-round loss was only the third time in 11 games in which they gave up more than one touchdown.
Newman didn’t need to already be in the red zone for six of its seven touchdowns against Hope Academy in a 41-22 win. The average touchdown-scoring play was 45 yards.
After Chase Graham scored from 7 yards out, Karter Decker caught a 47-yard TD pass from Landen Vesley. The big plays by the Comets continued for the rest of the game: Luke Olson (58 yards), Easton Bianchi (70 and 52) and Cade Gorzny (36) saw plenty of green turf on scoring runs against the Eagles.
Lena-Winslow is no stranger to the second round of the playoffs, but its 49-16 win over Milledgeville set a new best in points scored by the Panthers in that round.
Just 29 minutes passed before the Panthers scored 49 points. The previous best was 48 points, set in 2013 in a 48-20 win over Aquin.
Coupled with a 55-20 first-round win over Stark County, the 104 points is the best 2-game total to start a playoff run in Lena-Winslow history.
How could Sterling junior Isaiah Ryan top not one, but two defensive scores by classmate Marquez Williams in the Golden Warriors’ 46-20 win at Kaneland? By running for the largest interception return in school history at 103 yards.
Sterling led Kaneland 19-6 before Williams ran a fumbled ball back for 54 yards and a score, and ran back a pick-six from 30 yards out. Ryan denied Kaneland quarterback Jack Douglas of a passing touchdown by catching his pass and running almost the entire length of the field to put his team up 38-6.
Ryan ties Morrison’s Jason McDearmon with the largest interception return by a local athlete. McDearmon’s 103-yard return came in a Week 5 win over Riverdale in 1998.