BETHALTO – John Whitworth figured the Civic Memorial football team got back to basics Friday night:
That’s running and winning.
The Eagles did both in rushing by Mount Zion, 46-28 on Senior Night at Hauser Field. CM will carry a 7-2 record into the IHSA playoffs. Mount Zion takes a 6-3 mark into postseason play. The IHSA will announce its eight-class, 256-school pairings Saturday night.
“We knew because it was Senior Night that we had to go out and get a win,” Whitworth said. He lit the fuse with 21 rushes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. All of his scores came in the first half when the 180-pound senior rambled for 190 of his yards.
Overall, Whitworth has run for 1,322 yards and tallied 18 touchdowns in nine games. The last CM runner to scoot for more than 1,000 yards was Joe Odom with 1,188 in 1997.
“He’s the best running back we have seen this season,” said Mount Zion coach Mike Popovich, formerly at Bunker Hill High. “He’s a very physical player.”
Teammate Zach Williams tacked on 94 yards rushing and scored twice, including an electrifying 76-yard run with 6:28 remaining to ensure the Eagles’ win.
“It’s my best touchdown run of the season,” Williams said of his game-breaker. “I got the ball and our guys on the offensive line opened up a hole for me. I had good blocking, then I was able to cut back and get to the end zone.”
Quarterback Adam Hill pitched in by completing 12 of 19 passes for 144 yards and two TD passes. He hit Jack Walker for a 9-yarder with 6:08 to play in the second quarter and then connected with Tim Klocke for a 15-yard score with 6.9 seconds remaining in the half. The Eagles led 34-14 at the break.
“Adam had a good game, we were physical with our play and we got back to running the ball,” CM coach Justin Winslow said. “When we are running the ball like that, we are all right.”
CM’s offense sagged a bit in a 35-13 loss at Triad on Oct. 16 and the Eagles sought to make amends. It was the sixth time — and the first since Sept. 25 — they scored more than 40 points.
“We wanted to get back to the way we were playing and this feels good,” Williams said of snaring a win heading into the playoffs.
Whitworth added, “We were frustrated in the Triad game, so we wanted to come out and play better tonight. We had a nice first half and I got some good blocking.”
He had touchdowns runs of 44, 3 and 11 yards in the opening half and also chipped in with runs of 42 and 55 yards. His 44-yard score came on CM’s first play from scrimmage.
The only guy touching the ball more was Mount Zion quarterback Brandon Price.
The 6-foot-5, 190-pound junior rushed 40 times for 255 yards — an unheard of total for a quarterback. He also completed 19 of 32 passes for 154 yards. Price scored on runs of 2 and 3 yards and threw one TD pass. CM’s Dylan Sutton intercepted one of his passes late in the game to clinch the Eagles’ victory.
“He’s the best player for us on the field every week,” Popovich said. “He’s getting better and better and we feel really good about him.”
Popovich warned that any team drawing CM in the playoffs shouldn’t feel too good about it.
“There’s a reason they are 7-2 for the season. We got down by three scores against them and you can't do that against a good team,” he said. “They are physical and they can put up points. I wouldn’t want to meet them in the playoffs because they are a dangerous team.
“I think they are better than anybody we have played this season.”
Winslow praised the Eagles for regaining their form that saw them start the season 5-0.
“We were more physical tonight and we played hard,” he said. “Adam Hill did a very good job and we go as he goes. We had a lot of guys contribute and that’s what we need every game.”
Next up is Round 1 of the playoffs, marking the first time CM has participated in the postseason since 2010. If the Eagles get a home game, it will be their first time they will have played at Hauser Field in the playoffs since 2005. Whether it's home or away, they are excited to be playing in Week 10.
"I have faith in us," Whitworth said. "It depends how focused we are. Tonight, we played with a lot of fire."
CM 46, MOUNT ZION 28
Mount Zion 7 7 14 0 — 28
CM 14 20 6 6 — 46
CM – John Whitworth 44 run (Colin Hall kick), 10:31
CM – Whitworth 3 run (Hall kick), 6:48
MZ – Justin May 4 run (Mason Tolle kick), 3:42
CM – Whitworth 11 run (Hall kick), 8:07
CM – Jack Walker 9 pass from Adam Hill (Hall kick), 6:08
MZ—Brandon Price 2 run (Tolle kick), 3:44
CM – Tim Klocke 15 pass from Hill (kick failed), :06.9
MZ – Price 3 run (Tolle kick), 8:30
CM – Zach Williams 10 run (kick failed), 5:46
MZ – Charles Kuhle 15 pass from Price (Tolle kick), 1:43
CM – Williams 76 run (pass failed), 9:34