VANDALIA — Anna-Jonesboro spotted Vandalia a 14-point lead in the first 3:12 of the game, but rallied to take a 21-20 lead at the half and then scored 21 points in the third quarter to beat the Vandals, 56-41, in the quarterfinals of the IHSA 3A football playoffs Saturday.
"This was an outstanding game," said Anna-Jonesboro coach Brett Detering "They have a lot of offensive firepower, so I’m so proud of our kids for continuing to fight after we fell behind early."
Anna-Jonesboro (12-0) advances to the semifinals for the third time during Detering’s 21-year tenure as head coach and will play Pleasant Plains, who beat Carlinville, 20-14, in overtime.
"Our fans traveling up here to cheer us on was awesome," Detering said. "You could hear the crowd both from the end zone crew from the train horn and behind us in the stands. It was a great atmosphere and our kids fed off of that."
The Wildcats finished with 568 yards rushing. Fullback Jayce Turner led the team with 214 yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns.
Quarterback back Bryce Osman added 170 yards on 17 carries and four touchdowns and running back Arieh Hart finished with 134 yards on 12 carries. Hart also caught a 30-yard touchdown pass.
"'Wow,' is all I can say about our rushing game," Detering said. "We needed big games out of our seniors and today we got a great offensive output from those three."
On the first drive of the game, Vandalia was facing a 2nd-and-25 from its own 10 after a holding penalty had wiped out a 39-yard pass from Matthew Wells to Marcus Zimmerman.
Wells then went back to the same play to pick up 23, and with a 3rd-and-2 Trevor Smalls swept around left end and outran the Wildcats down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and the Vandals led 7-0 just 1:40 into the game.
After forcing the Wildcats to punt, the Vandals took over on its own 27. On the first play, Smalls took a pitch around right end and ran untouched into the end zone. The kick was again good, and with 8:48 remaining in the first quarter, Vandalia led, 14-0. Smalls finished the game with 225 yards rushing on 22 carries.
"It was important for us not to panic at that point and to keep running our offense and to get a defensive stop to even things up," Detering said. "Conversions ended up being big, with them missing one in the first half and Jaryt Tripp making all of his. That gave the lead at the half."
The Wildcats drove from their own 33 to the Vandalia 34, but Zimmerman picked off Osman’s pass down the middle at the 14 to end the threat.
After forcing a three-and-out, Wildcats took over at their own 48. Kyle McMahan got the drive started with a 13-yard run around left end. After Turner was stopped for a one-yard gain, Hart took a pitch around right end for 11 yards.
Hart got six yards on a 4th-and-5 from the Vandalia 22, and Osman then called his own number and scored from the 16 on a draw with 34 seconds left in the first quarter. Tripp kicked the point to cut the lead in half 14-7.
Smalls returned the kickoff 48 yards to the Wildcat 39, and five plays later, scored from the three. The extra point went wide left ,leaving Vandalia with 20-7 lead with 9:10 remaining in the first half.
The Wildcats drove 55 yards on four plays, with Osman and Hart hooking up for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Tripp again kicked the point and Wildcats trailed by six with 7:42 remaining.
Vandalia fumbled the kickoff and Hart recovered at the Vandals' 30. The Turner and Osman each accounted for 15 yards, with Osman getting the final six for the score. Tripp again was good on the extra point to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game 21-20 with 4:16 left in the first half.
Vandalia’s onside kick attempt to start the second half hit one of Anna’s players, but the ball squirted out of bounds before the Vandals could recover. It then took just six plays to cover 67 yards, with Osman scoring on a 45-yard run. Tripp’s kick was good extending the lead to 28-20.
The momentum seemed to turn when Wells and Zimmerman connected for a 72-yard touchdown pass. After the kick, the Wildcats’ lead was back to one, 28-27.
The Wildcats came right back, driving 82 yards on six plays, with Reid Morrison scoring from 16 yards out. After Tripp’s kick, the Wildcats led 35-27.
That lead lasted just 23 seconds, with Zimmerman returning the kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. The extra point kick was wide, leaving the Wildcats with a 35-33 lead with 6:55 remaining in the third quarter.
After forcing Anna to punt, the Vandals were driving again when Osman intercepted Wells at the seven with 58 seconds left in the third quarter. Hart then ripped off a 36-yard run to open the drive, Osman followed with a 13-yard run and then Turner finished it off by scoring from 44 yards out as time ran out in the quarter. Tripp was good again to give the Wildcats a 42-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The momentum continued to be on A-J's side with Osman scoring on a 53-yard run to extend the lead to 49-33. The Vandals still had some life going on a six-play 54-yard drive to cut the lead to 49-41 with 8:27 remaining.
The Vandals got the ball back with 5:38 remaining, but the Wildcat defense forced another three-and-out, handing the ball back to the offense at the 50. Turner took over and ran on seven consecutive plays, finishing with a 24-yard touchdown with 1:05 remaining.