ROXANA — Roxana's first home playoff appearance in 11 years didn't turn out the way the Shells' had imagined on Saturday afternoon.
Visiting Carterville cruised by the Shells 49-22 in the second-round Class 4A playoff bout, improving to 11-0. Roxana concluded its excellent campaign at 8-3, rehashing a lot of tradition on the season with its first playoff appearance in 11 years, first home playoff appearance in 11 years and first winning season in 11 years.
Head coach Pat Keith knew it would be a test for the Shells with the talent the Lions possessed.
“They're a good ball team,” Keith said. “They were 10-0 for a reason. We knew that going into it. We thought we could slow them down, but we had too much trouble in the first half.”
Roxana turned the ball over four times in the game, three of them coming in the first half, and spotted Carterville a 35-0 lead before finally finding the end zone.
Dennis Drust, head coach of the Lions, knew after 11 years without a home playoff game the Shells would be hungry, so they wanted to strike early and take command.
“We're a tempo team and I think that was a big key to this,” Drust said. “We knew Roxana had some physical kids but didn't have much depth, so we wanted to try and use our tempo and try to wear them down and be quick with them, and I think that was a big part of our success today.”
Quarterback Blake Hicks and running back Brayden Bisaillon spearheaded the attack for the Lions. Running out of a spread offense, Hicks was able to carve up the Shells with 14 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Bisaillon was even better, running it 11 times for 148 yards and four scores — three in the first half.
“Bisaillon and Hicks have just stepped right in and filled a void from last season to this season and just been remarkable doing that,” Drust said of his junior quarterback and senior O-lineman turned running back.
Early on, Roxana was unable to form any type of consistency to build momentum. After punting on their first possession, the Shells saw Bisaillon score his first TD, hopping around and through defenders on a 5-yard run at the 7:10 mark of the first quarter. Jeff Giffey's kick made it 7-0.
Junior Blake Vandiver answered with a brilliant 68-yard kickoff return down to the Carterville 25-yard line, bouncing off defenders at midfield to stay on his feet.
Unfortunately, Roxana fumbled the ball away on its next play. Two plays later Hicks rumbled in from 49 yards out, making it 14-0.
The Shells' next possession looked to be a doozy. After two straight false start penalties, Logan Reardon rumbled 32 yards for a first down and surpassed Robert Rahn for the single-season rushing mark at Roxana. Rahn had 1,630 yards in 2001. Reardon finished with 158 yards for the game and 1,761 on the season.
The announcement of Reardon's feat seemed to spark the Shells, who took it down to the 3-yard line on a 15-play drive. But on fourth and goal, signal caller Chance Foss just floated his pass a little high for Reardon in the end zone and Roxana came away empty-handed.
“Basically I think it comes down to we just didn't execute when we needed to,” Keith said. “We had the fumbles, I thought we had a guy open in the end zone, we had a stop and then a roughing the quarterback penalty that could have swayed the momentum a little bit, but they're a great ball club. I think Carterville does a great job.”
The roughing the passer penalty came on Carterville's next possession in a third and 10 situation deep in the Lions' territory. The penalty handed Carterville a first down, which led to another Bisaillon TD to elevate the lead to 21-0.
The Shells finally got on the board with 55 seconds left in the opening half. Following a Luke Curtis interception at midfield, Foss was able to take advantage of it, hooking up with Seth Chester for a 27-yard score. The 2-point conversion failed, but the Shells cut it to 35-6.
The Lions struck once more before the half, with Hicks finding Austin Swails for a 14-yard TD reception as time expired. The extra point made it 42-6 at the break.
Bisaillon then basically put the game away when he broke free for a 51-yard rushing TD at the 10:51 mark of the third quarter. It ballooned the lead to 49-6 and kick started a running clock the rest of the way.
The Shells were able to find the end zone twice down the stretch, with Reardon plunging in on a pair of 1-yard TD runs. Foss found Trace Gentry on a 2-point conversion and Jared Foiles ran in another 2-pointer to lessen the blow on the scoreboard.
Seeing the Shells finish out strong and not cash it in while facing a running clock pleased Keith.
“That's what makes me proud of these kids because they didn't quit,” Keith said. “They could have quit and I could have gotten some of the younger guys in, but I wanted to let some of my older guys finish.”
Roxana says goodbye to nine seniors now, with Reardon, Chester, Curtis, Matt Meyers, Alec Revelle, Brennan Harris, Josh Rudd, Katlin Michelon and Shawn Porter all leaving the program.
Carterville will now await the winner of Althoff and Herrin set to be played at 7 p.m. Saturday night to see who it plays at home in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
CLASS 4A PLAYOFFS
CARTERVILLE 49, ROXANA 22
LIONS 14 28 7 0 49
SHELLS 0 6 8 8 22
C — Bisaillon 5 run (Giffey kick), 7:10
C — Hicks 49 run (Giffey kick), 5:55
C — Bisaillon 3 run (Giffey kick), 8:41
C — Hicks 9 run (Giffey kick), 8:09
C — Bisaillon 50 run (Giffey kick), 6:31
R — Foss to Chester 27 pass (2-point failed), 55.0
C — Hicks to Swails 14 pass (Giffey kick), 0.0
C — Bisaillon 51 run (Giffey kick), 10:51
R — Reardon 1 run (Foss to Gentry), 4:15
R — Reardon 1 run (Foiles run), 9:13