Roxana's Blake Vandiver runs away from a Southwestern defender in the first half Friday at Charlie Raich Field.
Roxana head coach Pat Keith talks to his team during first-half action on Friday.
ROXANA — The Roxana Shells were already in the playoffs entering Friday, but a win could possibly mean a home game to kick off the postseason.
The Shells handled their business, beating South Central Conference rival Southwestern 45-32 to finish up the regular season at 7-2. The Piasa Birds conclude their season at 3-6.
Roxana will now wait patiently to see where it lands in the playoffs. The IHSA will release pairings beginning at 8 p.m. on www.ihsa.com Saturday night.
“It could get us a home game, but either way we're happy to be in the playoffs,” Roxana head coach Pat Keith said of the Shells' first playoff berth since 2003. “It gives us an opportunity. We're not just satisfied getting in the playoffs, we want to get a win, too.”
Junior running back Blake Vandiver added, “It's been 11 years, 11 long, hard years trying to work back and get everything back together. We finally found it and we're back in the playoffs and it feels amazing. With guys like Chance (Foss), Logan (Reardon), Seth (Chester), Sean (Porter), it's just amazing.”
And it was Vandiver and fellow running back Logan Reardon running rampant on Friday. The dynamic duo combined for 354 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Vandiver had 25 carries for 174 yards and three scores and Reardon rumbled 25 times for 179 yards and one TD.
The Shells got things going on the ground early, too. They raced out to an 18-0 lead in the first quarter with Jared Foiles scoring on a 21-yard run, Vandiver sprinting in for a 49-yard score and Reardon plunging in from two yards out. With 2:52 to go in the first quarter Roxana found itself in front 18-0.
Reardon was quick to deflect credit for himself and his fellow backs though.
“Everything us backs do we can't do without our linemen,” Reardon said. “They're blocking up front and they're great guys. I wouldn't want anybody else to block for me.”
The Piasa Birds answered quickly though. On their second play from scrimmage quarterback Andrew Fry hooked up with Dakota Duvall for a 65-yard TD strike. The failed 2-point conversion made it 18-6.
On its next possession, Southwestern struck again. This time it was Tanner Dunham squeezing into the end zone for a 2-yard TD. With 9:54 to go in the half the Piasa Birds had rallied to cut it to 18-12.
“Fry, Duvall, I knew Southwestern would be a load,” Keith said. “I told coach (Aaron Fricke) they do a great job over there. They lost a couple games by a touchdown or two, so it was a battle.”
But the Shells would answer the bell once more in the marathon half. With 36.3 seconds to go Seth Chester raced in on an 18-yard score. Reardon punched in the 2-point conversion to make it 26-12 at the break.
“That took forever,” Keith said with a chuckle, talking about the first half.
The Shells made sure to make it go faster in the second half as they turned to the ground and pound.
They only had one passing attempt in the half and that came on an 8-yard pitch and catch for a TD between Chance Foss and Chester to extend the lead to 33-12 at the 3:34 mark of the third quarter.
Vandiver later added TD runs of 30 yards and one yard in the second half.
“That's a credit to our offensive line too,” Keith said of the second-half game management. “It's also a credit to Chance for managing the game. We have things to work on obviously, but I'm happy right now. I'm going to enjoy it.”
Southwestern found the end zone twice more in the second half. Fry scored on a 4-yard run at the 11:51 mark of the fourth quarter, he connected with Connor Robinson on a 66-yard TD pass with 8:22 left in the game and Tyler Skelton slipped in from one yard out with 2:40 remaining.
In the end it just wasn't enough to overtake the high-flying Shells.
On defense Alec Revelle paced Roxana, picking off Fry twice, once in the first half and then in the second half on a 2-point conversion attempt.
Jordan Hawkins and Sean Porter also teamed up for a sack for the Shells.
Now Roxana will turn its focus to Saturday's pairing show as the group will come together as a team to watch the internet broadcast.
“We are all getting together at my mom's work,” Reardon said. “We're going to go there as a team and watch and as soon as we find out we're going to try and prepare.”
Reardon doesn't really care what happens, he knows the Shells are in, they just want to figure out the unknown and be able to prepare for whoever and wherever is in store for them.
“A home playoff game would be nice, but we're in and that's all we want," he said.
ROXANA 45, SOUTHWESTERN 32
Southwestern 6 6 0 20 — 32
Roxana 18 8 7 12 — 45
R — Foiles 21 run (2-point failed) 8:04
R — Vandiver 49 run (2-point failed) 6:27
R — Reardon 2 run (2-point failed) 2:52
SW — Duvall 65 pass from Fry (2-point failed) 2:37
SW — Dunham 2 run (kick failed) 9:54
R — Chester 18 run (Reardon run) 36.3
R — Chester 8 pass from Foss (Reardon kick) 3:34
SW — Fry 4 run (2-point failed) 11:51
R — Vandiver 30 run (kick failed) 8:42
SW — Robinson 66 pass from Fry (Paslay pass from Fry) 8:22
R — Vandiver 1 run (2-point failed) 4:45
SW — Skelton run (2-point failed) 2:40