MARENGO – On their opening possession, Plano’s offense looked like it was in good shape. After a Tyler Ward completion and a series of running plays, the Reapers had already found themselves in Marengo territory.
But the next four plays - a run for no gain, a short pass and two incompletions - led to a turnover on downs, a representation of the Reapers’ overall struggles in their 44-0 Class 4A second round loss to No. 2 Marengo Friday night at Rod Poppe Fields.
“It was tough early on,” Reapers coach Brad Kunz said. “We made some tough decisions offensively and made the wrong choices.”
After the No. 7 Reapers (8-3) forced a three-and-out on their first defensive stand, the Indians responded with a 10-play, 83-yard touchdown drive on their next, giving them an early 6-0 lead.
The score would remain the same until the 9:40 mark of the second quarter, when Ward (11-28, 120 yards, two interceptions) was picked off at the Reapers 14. On the ensuing play for the Indians, quarterback Zach Knobloch extended the lead to 14-0 on a 14-yard touchdown pass.
The Indians (11-0) capitalized on three Reaper turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) in the first half altogether, forcing Ward outside the pocket often. He was also sacked three times.
Pinned back several times near their own endzone, field position did not play into the Reapers’ (8-3) favor most of the night. The Reapers, who averaged 35 points-a-contest, gained just 173 yards total offense, while allowing 347.
Even when field position did favor the Reapers, the Indians still found a way to make them pay. With 1:46 remaining in the first half, Indians receiver Jarrell Jackson ran back a punt 91 yards, contributing to a 24-0 halftime lead.
“Absolutely (field position was a factor),” Reapers coach Brad Kunz said. “(Jackson) is a heck of a player. His returns set the stage for their offense.”
Jackson also had a 50-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
Running back Jay Winter led the Reapers with 33 yards on 10 carries, while receiver Sergio Chavez grabbed four passes for 37 yards. Isaiah Martinez had two catches for 41 yards.
The Indians advance to the Class 4A quarterfinals next week against No. 3 Rockford Lutheran.