Defense lifts Pretzels; Aquin, Forreston win big

Matt Trowbridge
Journal Standard

FREEPORT — A high snap on a punt led to a safety on Guilford’s game-opening possession. The Vikings then lost a fumble on their next play. And fumbled the snap on the opening play of their third drive.

Guilford wound up fumbling six times in the first half, when it also threw an interception. And the Vikings fumbled away a punt at their own 10 on the opening drive of the second half.

And still Guilford had a chance to win on the game’s final drive Friday night, but Freeport’s defense stopped Guilford’s two-minute drive for a 16-12 NIC-10 football victory.

“We got a little nerve-wrecked, but we play good under pressure; we know how to turn it up when we need to,” said Freeport linebacker Aiden Kerr, who had a third-down sack on the second-to-last play of the game from Guilford’s 35-yard line. “Little mistakes is what kill us, but we turn it up at the end and do what we need to do.”

Freeport's Aiden Kerr brings down Guilford's quarterback Bryce Walker in the fourth quarter of their NIC-10 game at Freeport High School Friday, April 9, 2021, in Freeport. Freeport beat Guilford, 16-12.

Ky’ree Shirley, who ran for 150 yards on 12 carries, got Freeport (3-1) off to a quick start by running for 26, 34 and 45 yards on his first three carries, getting outside each time.

“He’s our playmaker, our go-to guy on offense,” Kerr said. “He never lets us down.”

“It gave me a real rush,” Shirley said. “It felt real good to contribute for the team early and often. Our coaches believe in my speed and getting to the edge. My blockers do a good job setting me up in open space and giving me opportunities.”

But after Guilford (2-2) took the outside away from Shirley, the Vikings stopped Freeport’s offense in its tracks. The Pretzels gained only two first downs the entire second half.

“We came out with a better mental intensity the second half,” Guilford running back Zane Cattage said. “We eliminated our mistakes from the first half. We actually came out to play. We still came up short, but there was nothing else we could do about it.”

Freeport took a 16-0 lead on that early safety, a 1-yard run by Tarrone Jackson (52 yards on 16 carries) and a 6-yard pass from Xzaveon Segner to Devonje Hereford.

“They were expecting a run, but we need to pass sometimes,” Hereford said.

Guilford had only two first downs before hitting its stride after Hereford’s TD. The Vikings went 65 yards in 12 plays, sparked by Bryce Walker’s 48-yard pass to Jordan Woods on fourth-and-13 and a 6-yard TD run on fourth down by Cattage. That cut Freeport’s lead to 16-6 at the half.

Guilford's Zane Cattage is tackled by Freeport's Trent Stohecker in the first quarter of their NIC-10 game at Freeport High School Friday, April 9, 2021, in Freeport. Freeport beat Guilford, 16-12.

The Vikings then rebounded from their botched punt return, stopping Freeport on a fourth-down quarterback sneak from the 1 and then mounting their own 98-yard drive. A 47-yard run by Cattage (116 yards on 14 carries) cut the deficit to 18-12. Like Shirley early, Cattage got most of his yards on the edge.

“They were killing us on the outside runs after the fakes,” Kerr said. “We weren’t getting outside like we were supposed to. But at the end we made it work.”

Freeport’s defense held three straight times to hold off Guilford, including once after a roughing the passer penalty wiped out a long interception return by Shirley.

“That was a heart-breaker,” Shirley said. “I thought I had a clutch moment there.”

Instead, the clutch moment was a series of small moments by the defense, which came up big at the end.

“I had faith in my boys,” Freeport defensive back Trent Strohecker said. “Sometimes we don’t do our jobs correctly, but we stepped up and got the W.”

Guilford was left thinking it could have done the same.

“It’s really frustrating that we started off so horribly because if we came out with the mental intensity we had the second half we could have definitely won this game,” Cattage said.

Forreston 48, Rockford Christian 23

Jordan Neuschwander ran for 234 yards on only 12 carries to lead Forreston (2-1). At one point, Neuschwander had six straight carries of 10 or more yards, gaining 40, 10, 63, 14, 44 and 34 yards. He also caught the Cardinals' only pass reception, for a 22-yard gain. Forreston finished with 491 yards rushing on 56 carries.

Caden Norquist completed 17 of 28 passes for 199 yards with two TDs and one interception for Rockford Christian (0-3). Noah Ross ran eight times for 70 yards for the Royal Lions and Isaiah Johnson caught four passes for 63 yards and a TD.

Aquin 40, East Dubuque 12

Will Gustafson ran for three long touchdowns and threw for another as Aquin improved to 4-0. Gustafson threw a 37-yard TD pass to Andrew Bowman and ran for scores of 36, 49 and 24 yards. He now has 82 career touchdowns.

Ty Stykel also ran for two touchdowns, giving him nine on the year.

Dawson Feyen scored on a 53-yard pass from Sam Bowen and on a 55-yard run for East Dubuque (1-3).

Milledgeville 22, E/PC 12

Kellen Henze scrambled for one touchdown and threw for another, but Eastland/Pearl City couldn’t recover from back-to-back Milledgeville TDs.

The Missiles (3-1) converted a fourth down to set up a 4-yard TD pass from Izaac Toms-Smith to Daniel Lohnes and take a 14-12 lead 13 seconds before halftime. The Missiles then scored again on the opening drive of the second half with Smith scoring on a 2-yard run to make it 22-12. Damon Miller had given the Missiles their first lead with a 2-yard run to make it 8-6.

Henze scored on an 8-yard fourth-down scramble to give E/PC an early 6-0 lead and also threw a 27-yard pass to Jaxson Sturtevant to make it 12-8.

“We had too many little mistakes to come out on top,” E/PC coach Jared McNutt said. “Our quarterback play was exceptional by Kellen. We just didn’t make enough plays to win.”

Amboy 16, West Carroll 8

The Clippers improved to 3-1 while West Carroll remained winless at 0-3 in a low-scoring defensive battle.


South Beloit 58, A-FC 18

The Sobos won easily, but Payton Lanning had a big game for Ashton-Franklin Center. Lanning ran for 126 yards and a TD and also had 84 yards receiving and returned a fumble 80 yards for a TD. Matt Thompson had 15 tackles on defense for A-FC, while Carson Ruff and Mason Monroe each had an interception.

Matt Trowbridge:; @matttrowbridge