BETHALTO — With rain falling and Mater Dei's Brendan Timmerman running the football effectively, the Civic Memorial Eagles could never take flight Saturday at Hauser Field.
Five turnovers plagued CM too, as it lost 34-14 to the Knights in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs. It was the first playoff home game for the Eagles since 2005, which concluded their season at 7-3.
Mater Dei improved to 7-3 and will advance to face Columbia in the second round of the postseason. Columbia slipped by Breese Central 21-20 on Saturday.
“They were a good football team and they got ahead and could do some different things,” CM head coach Justin Winslow said. “They got into some Power I stuff and we've got to do a better job of (stopping) that. We just can't get behind like that and expect to claw back. We had some plays to make in the first half and we just didn't make them and then again at the start of the second half.”
Mater Dei trudged ahead 14-0 entering the break when it turned to Timmerman to carry the load. The senior ended up with a total of 232 yards from scrimmage, 166 on the ground and 66 in the passing game. He scored a touchdown late to boot.
“He's just a dynamic X factor,” Knights' head coach Jim Stiebel said of Timmerman. “He's not real big, not super fast but just one of the better ball players I've ever seen. He's gritty, gets after it, he's a competitor.”
Mater Dei got on the board early, which helped on the sludgy day.
Quarterback Colin Schuetz completed a 28-yard pass to Timmerman on third down on the opening drive to keep it alive. Later Schuetz scampered in on a 4-yard score at the 10:22 mark of the opening quarter. Grant Huelsmann's extra point made 7-0 in favor of the Knights.
It turned into a stalemate from there, as neither squad could get the offenses churning. Dylan Sutton and David Lane made big stops to stall Mater Dei's second drive and Sutton recovered a fumble on its third possession, but CM couldn't muster much on offense.
Sutton then picked off Schuetz on the fourth drive for the Knights, but again the Eagles came up short.
CM quarterback Adam Hill threw his first of four interceptions midway through the second quarter on a tipped ball that went to Mater Dei's Josh Haberer, who returned it 54 yards.
Haberer's pick set up a 3-yard TD run from Brady Rakers with 6:05 to play. Huelsmann's PAT pushed it to 14-0, which is where it stood entering the half.
“(The rain) had an effect, but it was for both teams and you've got to give credit to them for what they did,” Winslow said. “We had to be better and we had to make plays and I'm sure it's not easy to be a quarterback and throw in this, but Adam Hill is a good football player and he stepped up and did everything we asked him to do.
“In the playoffs you can't turn the ball over. We said we wanted to win the turnover battle and we didn't. We didn't play up front offensively real well and you've got to give credit to (Mater Dei).”
Coming out of the break, David Lane took the kickoff 58 yards after picking up a big block from running back John Whitworth. Unfortunately, Timmerman intercepted Hill two plays later.
The Knights would have to punt, but when CM fumbled the return, it set them up in great field position leading to Scheutz's second TD run of 9 yards at the 9:17 mark of the third quarter. The extra point failed, making it 20-0.
The Eagles finally found the end zone with 4:44 left in the third quarter. Running their jumbo package in the red zone, Corey Price punched it in from 3 yards out. Colin Hall booted the PAT, cutting it to 20-7.
But Mater Dei drove down the field on the next drive behind a couple of big Timmerman runs and capped it off with a 3-yard plunge from Rakers with 59.7 seconds left in the third. A 2-point try failed, leaving the Knights up 26-7.
Behind the Power I, Mater Dei was able to methodically move the ball and shave time off the clock.
“We expected a mudder and we got a mudder and we have a couple running backs that are mudders,” Stiebel said. “The second half I don't know how many times we threw it, but we didn't want to throw it at all.”
Trevor Johnson of the Knights intercepted Hill on the first play following the TD. It led to Timmerman finally finding the end zone on a 4-yard dive with 10:00 remaining in the game. Schuetz then hooked up with Timmerman for the 2-point conversion to make it 34-7.
CM's final score came with 14.4 seconds remaining in the game. Hill slipped in from 5 yards out and Hall's extra point made the final of 34-14.
Overall, Hill was 14 of 31 for 191 yards with the 4 picks, while carrying the ball 5 times for 26 yards and a TD in his final game with the Eagles. Whitworth paced the ground attack with 21 carries for 92 yards, while fellow senior Brett Lane led the receiving corps with 4 grabs for 104 yards.
Sutton, another senior, produced the two turnovers for CM with a fumble recovery and an interception.
All-in-all, the Eagles have to say goodbye to 13 seniors. Winslow said they've been key to CM's successful campaign, it's first winning season since 2005.
“I'm extremely proud of my seniors,” Winslow said. “This is now the bar of what CM football needs to be. We need to be in the playoffs every year, seven wins or better, and I think we have a really good young nucleus coming back and this senior group set the bar for that.”