Roxana's Seth Chester runs the football during the first half of a Class 4A playoff game in Freeburg on Saturday.
Alec Revelle of the Shells makes a reception for some short yardage in the first half against the Midgets on Saturday.
FREEBURG — It wasn't enough to just make the playoffs, the Roxana Shells wanted to show they deserved to be there.
Roxana did just that on Saturday, cruising past the Freeburg Midgets 47-21 in the Class 4A playoffs for their first postseason win since 2003. The Shells improved to 8-2 on the season with the win and have earned a home playoff date with Carterville (10-0) in Week 2 of the playoffs. Game time will be released on Monday.
Carterville defeated Breese Mater Dei 28-20 on Saturday afternoon.
“We're happy,” Roxana head coach Pat Keith said. “First time in the playoffs in 11 years and our kids played well. We would have liked to finish the game a little better, but hats off to Freeburg, there's no quit in those guys. I'm very excited with our program.”
It was a three-headed running attack that paced the Shells on Friday. Senior Seth Chester hauled the rock 13 times for 166 yards and two scores, while junior Blake Vandiver chipped in with 19 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown and Logan Reardon had 15 touches for 97 yards and one rushing TD.
“That's the key for us, ball control, running the football,” Keith said. “Tonight our offensive line did a good job, we stuck with it and the kids did a good job.”
Chester — who had TD runs of 65 yards and one yard — admitted that the ground success was easily attributed to the game plan.
“Watching game film we had an idea we were going to run the football and we did that,” Chester said. “We talked about who we were going to block and we executed. 'Pound the rock' is what we call it and we did exactly that. We marched down the field and hit paydirt so it feels pretty good.”
Freeburg drew first blood though. On their second possession, the Midgets dipped into their bag of tricks and pulled out a flea flicker as Joseph Wolf turned and threw it to Bobby Tedesco who connected with a wide open Robby Vall on a 40-yard TD strike. The extra point by Kimes Brennin was good to give the host Midgets the 7-0 lead.
“That was something we'd prepared for, but it was a good play on their part,” Keith said. “I was a little worried, but our kids are resilient and they did a good job.”
Resilient was an understatement. Roxana answered with 41 unanswered points.
The Shells got on the board with 2:07 to go in the first quarter when quarterback Chance Foss found Reardon on a 23-yard TD strike. Reardon then booted the extra point to knot it at 7-7.
It was Reardon's first TD reception on the season. It also gave him the most points scored in a season at Roxana. Reardon entered Friday with 140 points, adding 15 points to give him 155 on the season. The new benchmark broke a record which had stood since 1948.
“That's fantastic,” Keith said. “That's a testament to him, the line and everybody in the program. I'm happy for Logan. That's a great thing.”
Roxana's next score came on Chester's 65-yard spurt into the end zone with 5:28 to go in the first half. Chester raced downfield, changed direction near the 25-yard line to avoid a defender and went in for the score.
“I found a hole, there was nobody in sight and I started boogying,” he said. “I had one guy on me around the 20-yard line and I had to cut inside and whatever I had left I got it out. It was great blocking. It was a big ole hole and all I had to do was run.”
Vandiver scored on a 5-yard run with 57.3 seconds to go in the half to hand the Shells a comfortable 19-7 lead at the break.
Roxana continued to pour it on as Chester scored on a 1-yard run, Reardon on a 3-yard plunge and Foss on a 1-yard bootleg to put the Shells in front 41-7 with 9:09 left in the game.
Not to be overlooked was the play of the defense.
Jarred Foiles set the tone with an acrobatic interception to end the first quarter to stall a Freeburg drive.
Then in the second half, the Shells had a pair of big red zone stops. Vall was stopped on a fourth-and-two at the Freeburg 5-yard line and a sack by Luke Curtis closed the door on a fourth-and-goal at the 8-yard line late in the third.
To put the cherry on top, Trace Gentry intercepted Wolf in the final minute of the game at the 34-yard line and lumbered in for a score to slam the playoff door shut on the Midgets.
“I think defense was good for us,” Keith said. “I was disappointed late there a little bit, but we got ourselves a cushion and we were able to do it.”
Freeburg made its push late in the fourth quarter. Vall barreled in for a 49-yard score, weaving in and out of Roxana defenders with 7:44 to play. Wolf followed it up recovering an onside kick for the Midgets, which led to a 24-yard TD hookup with Dylan Weber with 6:10 to play. The kick cut it to 41-21 before Gentry's interception and score finished off the game.
“I think that was part of their game plan,” Keith said. “They found some things that were hurting us and took advantage for one and then our kids, I think they were getting on easy street and starting to enjoy it, but I think it was really a credit to their coaching staff. They found something that was hurting us and they took advantage of it.”
Now it's time for the Shells to return home once more, this time for a coveted playoff game. Chester for one is glad to be able to return that winning tradition to a hungry community which hasn't had a chance to enjoy this since 2003.
“We haven't been here in 11 years and the town loves it,” Chester said.
It's something he loves being a part of it to. He was six the last time the Shells qualified for the postseason.
“I was a little guy and this is a big dream of mine,” Chester said. “We're here and it's crazy. The town loves it, the community loves it and we're going to see how far we can go.”
ROXANA 47, FREEBURG 21
SHELLS 7 12 16 12 — 47
MIDGETS 7 0 0 14 — 21
Class 4A Postseason
F — Wolf pass Vall 44 (Brennin kick) 4:51
R — Foss pass Reardon 23 (Reardon kick) 2:07
R — Chester run 65 (kick failed) 5:28
R — Vandiver run 5 (conversion failed) 57.3
R — Chester run 1 (Foss to Vandiver) 8:41
R — Reardon run 3 (Reardon run) 3:59
R — Foss run 1 (conversion failed) 9:09
F — Vall run 49 (Brennin kick) 7:44
F — Foss pass Weber 24 (Brennin kick) 6:10
R — Gentry interception 34 (kick failed) 23.6