Road-tested Knoxville to travel again for quarterfinal playoff game: Here's the lowdown
KNOXVILLE — One big advantage for a playoff-veteran team is that they've probably seen it and done it before so they're well-prepared for the current challenges they face.
That was the case for the Knoxville Blue Bullets last week when they survived a 49-29 Class 2A IHSA playoff road victory over Bismarck-Henning that was clinched in the final minutes.
"We had some see-saw battles at Wethersfield and Mercer County that were back and forth and back," said Knoxville coach Ryan Hebard.
"We were in this battle and the kids kept making plays. I think we kind of wore them down in the fourth quarter.
"It was a real fun thing to be a part of."
By virtue of that victory, Knoxville (9-2) goes back on the road to play Downs Tri-Valley (9-2) in a 1 p.m. state quarterfinal game on Saturday.
Class 2A Elite Eight (with seeds)
No. 1 Maroa Forsyth (11-0) at Rockridge (10-1), 2 p.m. Saturday
No. 7 Knoxville (9-2) at No. 6 Downs TriValley (9-2), 1 p.m., Saturday
No. 4 Panta (10-1) at No. 1 Decatur St. Teresa (11-0), 1 p.m., Saturday
No. 14 Belleville Althoff (7-4) at No. 2 Johnston City (11-0), 4 p.m., Saturday
About Downs Tri-Valley
The Vikings will bring plenty of seen it, done it to Saturday's game themselves.
They are 65-15 under coach Josh Roop over the past seven years and won the Class 2A state title in 2015 while going 12-0 last year.
A member of the Heart of Illinois Conference with teams like Eureka and El Paso Gridley, the Vikings lone losses this season were 30-22 to El Paso Gridley in their regular-season finale and to Ridgeview-Lexington 21-16 early in September.
They have defeated Wilmington 28-21 and Clifton Central 44-0 in the playoffs.
"They're physical, well-coached and have played good defense all year long," said Hebard.
"They're a spread system but its more spread to run than spread to throw but they will throw the ball."
The Vikings are led by 6-2, 195-pound senior Blake Regenold, who averages 99 yards rushing per game and 43 yards in pass receptions. He also plays middle linebacker on defense.
Knoxville's performance last week
About Jaxin Johnson's performance in last week's victory, Hebard says simply, "He had a hell of a day."
That's a fitting description for the six-touchdown, 282 rushing yards game the Blue Bullets senior produced.
What impressed Hebard most?
"He had two plays back-to-back that went for 86 and 55 yards.
"They were blocked well and he hit the holes. If he's got a clear line of sight, he can put it in the endzone."
Odds and ends
At this point in the playoffs, Hebard says success "Is more speed, execution and mental than anything .... Knoxville's last trip to the quarterfinals came in 2019 and the only member of the current Blue Bullets roster who saw varsity action that season is quarterback Beau Honecutt, who got practice reps at cornerback ... Knoxville fell to eventual state champ Sterling Newman in the quarterfinals that year.