How Eureka football rediscovered its winning formula just in time for the playoffs

Adam Duvall
Journal Star

EUREKA — A familiar-looking Eureka football team has returned just in time for the playoffs.

After ending its season with a brutal schedule, the Hornets showed flashes of their old selves, beating Beardstown 49-6 in a Class 3A first-round playoff game on Friday night at McCollum Field. Six-seed Eureka (8-2) heads to No. 3 Williamsville (9-1) next week for a second-round game.

Eureka had scored just seven points in a pair of Week 7 and 8 losses to Heart of Illinois Conference foes Colfax Ridgeview/Lexington and Downs Tri-Valley. Last week, the offense mustered 21 points to wrap up the regular season and prevent Deer Creek-Mackinaw from making the playoffs.

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“We’ve tried to treat every game like a playoff game, especially the last four,” said Eureka coach Jason Bachman, whose team beat Class 2A playoff team El Paso-Gridley in Week 6. “… We’re just going to continue to try and get better. Get in the film.

“We’re going to have to play ball next week, for sure.”

Friday, however, proved to be a prime example of what Eureka is capable of doing.

Eureka's Camron Manning, left, forces a fumble from Beardstown quarterback Owen Quigley in the second half of their Class 3A first-round playoff game Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Eureka. The Hornets advanced with a 49-6 victory.

Eureka's defense came to play

The program’s 21st playoff game resulted in the third-highest point total ever, while matching a program best for the least number of points allowed. Those tallies are very much in line with the 2022 edition of Eureka, which scores 34 points a game and gives up 4.3.

That defense was tested early when Beardstown (5-5) forced Eureka to punt on its opening drive, then put together its best drive of the night. The Tigers used a 61-yard gain by Lucas Domitien on a screen pass, then a 13-yard rumble from Christy Domitien and capped it with a three-yard score on Owen Quigley’s quarterback sneak. All done in four plays, covering 76 yards in only 75 seconds.

Christ Domitien was a tough tackle as a bruising running back. The junior ran for 38 yards in the first quarter but managed 33 over the final three periods.

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“I think that surprised some of our kids,” Bachman said of Domitien’s running style. “We swarm to the ball pretty good most of the time, but I think we really just fell back into those basics that we got to have a lot of hats on the ball every play.

“One guy maybe isn’t going to bring him down. I think they bought into that.”

Eureka quarterback Jacob Morin (12) tosses a pass under pressure from Beardstown's Micah Wink (62) and Gunner Looker in the second half of their Class 3A first-round playoff game Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Eureka. The Hornets advanced with a 49-6 victory.

And the offense followed

As soon as the defense started clicking, the Eureka offense came alive. The Hornets scored 49 unanswered points thanks in a large part to QB Jake Morin, wideouts Drew Dingledine and Justis Bachman along with the backfield of Mason Boles (49 yards, 2 TDs) and Rylan Bachman (58 yards, TD).

Rylan Bachman put Eureka ahead 7-6 with a 22-yard scamper. Boles then made it a one-possession game with a 7-yard score and went into halftime up 14-6.

Eureka, though, came out in the second half, really sped up the game’s tempo and scored on all five of its possessions.

“We didn’t play our best in that first half,” Morin said, “so we knew that we had to come out with a punch. … We did what we had to do.”

The 5-foot-11, 160-pound senior went to his favorite target Dingledine eight times for 124 yards and a touchdown. Justis Bachman caught a pair of TDs to go with 118 yards on five catches. Camron Manning even got in on the action, catching three balls for 38 yards and a three-yard touchdown.

“He was amazing,” Dingledine said of Morin. “Props to him. Perfect balls everywhere. Did what coach told him to do. Best quarterback around.”

“You got to have confidence to catch the ball. He found the green grass and threw it to me.”

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Morin finished 14-for-17 with 280 yards and all four of his TD passes coming in the second half. Eureka added 130 on the ground.

“That’s what we’re going to need him to do the rest of the season if we’re going to continue to keep playing,” Bachman said of his two-year starter.

Beardstown managed 266 total yards (152 rushing, 114 passing) and got Quigley sacked four times.

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.