The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

WESTVILLE, Ill. — The Morrison Mustangs fell about a foot short of advancing to the state championship at the University of Illinois.

Down 21-20 to the Westville Tigers in an Illinois Class 2A high school football state semifinal with just 32 seconds remaining after a Morrison touchdown made it a one-point game, Mustang coach Scott Rickels opted to go for the two-point conversion and the win.

Morrison got in a tight, power formation. Quarterback Nathan Vandermyde took the snap, turned and handed off to his cousin, 5-foot-10, 195-pound fullback Nick Vandermyde, who had been the Mustangs’ bread and butter all season.

Nick Vandermyde headed full bore behind the right side of the offensive line. But, just when it looked like Vandermyde might score, Westville defenders got to him and stopped him about a foot short of the goal line.

Morrison then had to onside kick and the Tigers recovered and ran out the clock in a heart-stopping 21-20 win.

“It was close. They said his knee was down,” Rickels said of the two-point conversion. “We had already decided if we got the chance we’d go for two. If you make it, great. If you don’t, you lose. All the kids wanted to go for it.”

The fourth-ranked Mustangs’ fine season comes to an end with a mark of 11-2, the only other loss coming to Class 3A semifinalist Bureau Valley.

Fifth-ranked Westville improved to 13-0 and moves to a state championship game matchup with top-ranked and 13-0 Maroa-Forsyth, which trounced unranked Casey-Westfield 35-0 in the other 2A semifinal.

The Mustangs nearly overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit. Their last-minute touchdown came on a 55-yard drive that took less than two minutes.

Nathan Vandermyde completed 5-of-8 passes on the drive. He hit Trevor Popkin for 8 yards and Nate McBride for 4 yards before a 15-yard connection with Chuck Cady to the Westville 23.

Nathan Vandermyde then ran for 7 yards. Two plays later he hit Popkin for a short 4-yard gain. Two plays after that Nathan Vandermyde hit Popkin again in the right side of the end zone for a 12-yard TD.

Down 21-7 at the half, Morrison showed it was not going away when it took advantage of a 38-yard kickoff return by Cady and drove 51 yards for a touchdown.

The Mustangs, who had just five first downs in the first half, had four first downs on the opening drive of the second half.

The drive featured Nick Vandermyde (18 carries, 151 yards), who carried the ball six times for 49 yards in the march. He capped the drive in style with a 20-yard touchdown run in which he put Westville’s Kyle Strebing to the ground with a tenacious stiff-arm.

Shaun Vegter added the extra point and it was a 21-14 ballgame with 7:49 left in the third quarter.

Morrison got the ball back when Westville standout running back Caleb Pratt, who went over 2,000 yards for the season with his 131 yards on 27 carries, fumbled the ball away and Cady recovered at the Mustang 47 with 6:13 left in the quarter.

Morrison could not take advantage, however, and punted after a three-and-out series.

The Tigers then marched from their own 11 to the Mustang 20, chewing up the rest of the third quarter and the first few minutes of the fourth quarter before Pratt fumbled the ball away with Morrison recovering at its own 16 with 9:33 to play.

The Mustangs had another three-and-out set before punting the ball away with 7:20 left. Westville moved from its own 40 to the Morrison 37 before Nick Vandermyde intercepted Tigers quarterback Jacob Attutis.

Vandermyde made a nice return and was hit late out of bounds for a 15-yard penalty, moving the ball to the Westville 39 with 3:24 left.

Three plays later Nathan Vandermyde fumbled the snap from center and the Tigers recovered at their own 36 with 3:12 to play.

The Mustang defense stiffened and held Westville to a three-and-out set and a punt, setting the stage for the late-game frenzy.

The Tigers opened the game with an aerial assault, moving from their own 20 the Morrison 14 before being pushed back nine yards by a fumbled snap and turning the ball over on downs.

The 14-play drive included eight passes, four of them complete for 53 yards.

Westville had a near-touchdown on the drive when Attutis fired to Jordan Barney at the goal line, but Barney dropped the ball after a hit by Cady.

After the teams exchanged three punts the Tigers put the first points on the board with a 40-yard touchdown drive highlighted by a 17-yard run by Pratt.

Westville capped the march when Eli Williams made a juggling catch and took it in for an 8-yard TD. The extra point made it 7-0 with 10 minutes left in the first half.

The Tigers made it 14-0 when they took advantage of an interception and went just 20 yards for a touchdown. Pratt had an 11-yard run, then went 9 yards for the score. Barney’s extra point made it 14-0 with 8:24 left in the first half.

After going its first three possession without a first down, Morrison got it first two first downs on the same play when Nick Vandermyde bolted 53 yards down the left sideline and was facemasked for a personal foul.

The long run and penalty moved the ball to the Westville 7. On the next play Nick Vandermyde would not be denied, carrying several Tiger defenders over the goal line. Vegter’s point after made it 14-7 with 8:09 left in the half.

Westville quickly responded, getting a long kickoff return from Pratt, then working 37 yards for their third touchdown. Pratt had a 14-yard run on the drive, which was capped by a 5-yard run by Williams. Barney’s point after made it 21-7 with 5:43 left in the half.

After a scoreless first quarter the teams combined for 28 points in 4 minutes and 17 seconds in the second quarter.

Morrison tried to answer, moving from its own 38 to the Tigers’ 1 before turning the ball over on downs with 1:34 left in the half. The drive ended on fourth-and-goal from the 4 when Nathan Vandermyde scrambled and was stopped at the 1.

Westville outgained the Mustangs 298-230. The Tigers rushed for 171 yards and passed for 121. Morrison rushed for 186 yards and passed for 44.

Nick Vandermyde eclipsed 1,700 yards on the season with his performance.

“We played a real good second half,” Rickels said. “You have to be a little lucky in these games too, and I thought they got the breaks in the first half. I’m real proud of our guys.

“We were down two touchdowns. We could have packed it up. But, we fought real hard. We just came up short. It was a great ride for our kids. This one’s going to sting, because we got so close.”

Score by Quarters

Morrison 0 7 7 6 — 20

Westville 0 21 0 0 — 21


Second Quarter

W—Eli Williams 8 pass from Jacob Attutis (Jordan Barney kick), 10:00.

W—Caleb Pratt 9 run (Barney kick), 8:24.

M—Nick Vandermyde 7 run (Shaun Vegter kick), 8:09.

W—Williams 5 run (Barney kick), 5:43.

Third Quarter

M—Ni. Vandermyde 20 run (Vegter kick), 7:49.

Fourth Quarter

M—Trevor Popkin 12 pass from Nathan Vandermyde (run failed), :32.


First Downs 13 20

Rushes-Yards 31-186 44-171

Passing Yards 44 127

Comp-Att-Int 8-15-1 10-18-1

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-2

Penalties-Yards 1-3 5-34

Individual Leaders

Rushing—Morrison: Nick Vandermyde 18-151, Nathan Vandermyde 5-20, Nate McBride 7-13, Nate Neighbour 1-2. Westville: Caleb Pratt 27-131, Eli Williams 7-26, Jacob Attutis 7-8, Jordan Barney 3-6.

Passing—Morrison: Na. Vandermyde 8-15-1-44. Westville: Attutis 10-18-1-127.

Receiving—Morrison: Trevor Popkin 3-24, Chuck Cady 2-19, McBride 1-4, Ni. Vandermyde 2-(-3). Westville: Williams 5-71, Barney 2-21, Kyle Strebing 2-21, Aaron Johnson 1-14.

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