ROXANA – Jordan Hawkins and Marcus Hartnett did their part in spurring the Roxana Shells on Friday night at Charles Raich Field.
Hawkins rushed 24 times for 239 yards and two touchdowns while Hartnett intercepted three passes as Roxana defeated Gillespie, 20-0, on Senior Night in a South Central Conference football game.
The surging Shells won their fifth consecutive contest and inched closer to an IHSA playoff berth. They are 5-2. The Miners, falling to 2-5, lost their fifth successive game.
“It was one heck of a win for us,” said the rugged Hawkins, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore running back. “We had something to prove and the whole team stepped up and picked up the slack.”
The Shells were without starting quarterback Chance Foss (broken collarbone) and heralded runner Blake Vandiver (injured shoulder). So Hawkins ignited the offense by scoring on runs of 6 and 9 yards. Teammate Jarod Foiles added a 2-yard score in helping Roxana build a 12-0 advantage after the first quarter.
Hawkins’ 9-yard score, with 7:47 remaining, gave them an insurmountable three-touchdown lead. Quarterback Zack Golenor hooked up with Talon Pile on a conversion pass after Hawkins’ second score. Pile and Foiles teamed for 92 yards rushing to complement Hawkins’ work.
“Jordan’s a big guy, he runs hard and he runs to the holes,” Shells’ coach Pat Keith said.
Longtime Gillespie coach Don Dobrino, 80, two games away from finishing his 50th season, said Hawkins was hard to handle. Hawkins accounted for 172 yards rushing in the first half.
“He’s a big guy and a good runner, especially for a sophomore,” said Dobrino, who played for Iowa in its 1957 Rose Bowl victory. “We tried to tackle him high and you can’t do that.”
Then there was Hartnett. His sure hands resulted in a trio of thefts as the Shells intercepted Miners’ quarterback Tate Wargo six times. Brady Lewis, Golenor and Foiles also picked off passes.
“I’ve never had a team intercept six passes in a game,” said Keith, the Shells’ coach for seven seasons. “That’s pretty good. It’s the first shutout we’ve had in a long time. I’d say the last one was in 2009.”
Hartnett, a 6-0, 165 sophomore, now has six interceptions in seven games. He doubled his total in one night.
“I’ve never had three interceptions in a game,” Hartnett said. “It’s the best game I’ve ever had. I was playing my position and in the right spot at the right time.
He added, “The defense played its part and Jordan had a great game running the ball. He’s a work horse and an amazing player.”
Hawkins said, “I just wanted to do my job tonight. Our defense came through with some big plays and the defense has definitely improved.”
Keith liked the way the Shells’ defense responded in taking pressure off the revamped Roxana offense. It was a welcome relief.
“Hartnett has good hands and we put a lot of pressure on their quarterback,” Keith said. “I think tonight’s win was a testament to the ‘next man up’ situation. We responded well after losing Chance and Blake.
“It will give us confidence going into next week.”
Roxana plays at Staunton on Oct. 16 and then concludes its regular-season schedule Oct. 23 at Southwestern. One more win guarantees the Shells another playoff berth.
Running backs Ethan Blevins and Brice McKinney tried to get Gillespie going. Wargo completed five passes for 53 yards, but the Shells’ six interceptions thwarted him. The Miners moved inside the Shells’ 10-yard line once, then Hartnett’s second interception stopped them.
“I thought our defense played well after the first quarter,” Dobrino said pointing to that early 12-0 deficit. “But those turnovers can take it out of you.
“Sometimes we play really well and sometimes we don’t play well. We are capable of doing it, but it takes an effort to sustain it.”
Keith wants to see a better effort from the Shells in avoiding penalties. They were whistled for 120 yards on a dozen infractions, including multiple major ones.
“We definitely have some things to clean up there,” Keith said. “We shot ourselves in the foot too many times.”
He pointed out, “But a win is a win and it was really good to get a shutout.”
ROXANA 20, GILLESPIE 0
Gillespie 0 0 0 0 — 0
Roxana 12 0 0 8 — 20
R—Jarod Foiles 2 run (pass failed), 8:14
R – Jordan Hawkins 6 run (run failed), 4:35
R – Hawkins 9 run (Talon Pile pass from Zack Golenor), 7:47