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MURPHYSBORO — Spotting the Grey Ghosts an early touchdown following an interception, Murphysboro shook it off and scored 28 straight points to beat Illinois Valley Central, 28-14, Saturday at Doc Bencini Field to advance to the third round of the IHSA Class 4A football playoffs.

“You have to have a short memory,” said Murphysboro coach Gary Carter. “Our kids have been resilient all year. It was a phenomenal win for our program.”

The Red Devils (9-2) will host Kankakee McNamara next Saturday at a time yet to be determined. This is the first time since 1998 Murphysboro has advanced beyond the second round. The loss was the first for the Grey Ghosts after starting the postseason 10-0.

The Murphysboro rushing attack that ran all off the Grey Ghosts for 312 yards on 50 attempts. Running back Dezmond Clark led the game in rushing with 144 yards on 16 carries, while Aiden McNitt added 50 yards on three carries and Zane Caraway 49 yards on five carries.

“It was a long cold week of practice, so I didn’t know if I could get my feet under me or not,” Clark said. “But the weather was perfect for the runs I made today. Most of my plays were designed for going outside because of my speed. Today it worked better than we thought it could.”

Quarterback Jamarr McZeke only threw the ball four times completing one for 18 yards to Clark while throwing his first interception of the season on his first attempt that led the Central touchdown.

The Murphysboro defense shut down Central’s running attack, holding the Grey Ghosts to 120 yards rushing with 60 coming on runs by quarterback Alex Merlo. The senior completed 20-of-34 passes for 192 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“I told everyone after each game we just keep getting better every game,” said defensive coordinator Jason LeGrand. “They kids love to play and we love to coach.”

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The Grey Ghosts drew first blood after picking off McZeke at their own 35 on the Red Devils opening drive. Alex Merlo opened with a 19-yard keeper up the middle and two plays later Merlo hit Kamden Wollard for a 41-yard touchdown after the Murphysboro cornerback fell down.

Micah Schultz made the extra point to give Central a 7-0 lead with 2:38 into the game. Wollard finished with 10 catches for 131 yards.

Murphysboro came right back driving 72 yards on seven plays ending with McZeke scoring from the one on fourth down. After an offsides on the extra point the Red Devils went for two-points, but McZeke’s pass went incomplete leaving the Red Devils trailing 7-6 with 5:37 remaining in the first quarter.

At the start of the second quarter the Grey Ghosts shanked a punt leaving the Red Devils at the Central 48. Nine plays later Clark scored from the seven on 4th-and-1.

After stopping the Grey Ghosts on downs at the Murphysboro 27 with 2:56 remaining the Red Devils needed just four plays for Hoppenstedt to score on a 14-yard run with 2:29 remaining to give the Red Devils a 21-7 lead at the half.

The Red Devils upped its lead to 28-7 in the third quarter on a 42-yard drive on nine plays following a 12-yard punt with McZeke again scoring from one on fourth day.

Central scored with 2:05 remaining following an 83-yard, 10 play drive on a five-yard run by Merlo.

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