SENECA – The Seneca Fighting Irish won in and with style Friday night, whipping Reed-Custer, 41-20, in their home opener while wearing black jerseys rather than their traditional home green for the first time.
Coach Ted O’Boyle thinks the 399 yards and six touchdowns on the ground that Seneca (2-1, 1-0 in Interstate Eight Large) accumulated are evidence it can be a playoff team even after opening the season with a loss to Dwight.
“Our offense has basically been sputtering for a couple years now,” O’Boyle said. “We’ve gotta get a running game established. I still feel we could’ve thrown the ball if needed tonight, but I’m just happy we got the running game. It just makes everything so much easier in the future, when teams have to respect our run game.”
Each team notched a big scoring play within the opening five minutes. Seneca’s was a 63-yard Hunter Simon run on a third-and-short play. Reed-Custer answered with a 50-yard touchdown scamper by quarterback Tyler Shaw.
The score remained 7-all into the second quarter even though the Irish twice drove deep into Comet territory. They did not fall short on their next two drives, with quarterback Arik Applebee scoring from 14 yards out at the 6:22 mark and from 2 yards out at the 2:09 mark of the second quarter.
Simon’s 18-yard touchdown run capped Seneca’s opening drive of the second half. He added TD rushes of 4 and 33 yards, which offset a pair of Comet touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Simon finished with 162 yards on 15 carries. Casey Pifer ran for 89 on 10 attempts. Bryce Coyle had 79 yards on 11 carries, Applebee 56 on seven carries.
“Last week [in a 26-6 win at Nokomis], we got a little momentum,” Simon said, “and this week, we brought it all together.”
There were some silver linings for Reed-Custer, which lost 44-0 to Coal City and 55-7 to Manteno in the first two weeks. Shaw, Vince Vercelote and Scott Mitchell each contributed 37 or more yards to the Comets’ 164-yard attack. The Comets sacked Applebee twice and kept the Irish from completing any of their six pass attempts.
“It’s just about getting confidence,” Reed-Custer coach Mark Wolf said. “I told the kids tonight didn’t seem like an improvement, but it was. Give ’em credit – they played the whole game and finished it out and didn’t quit. There’s enough positives to take to the next week that we can build upon.”
While Reed-Custer tries to take steps back to respectability, Seneca will continue its playoff quest this week at Herscher. With Wilmington, Plano and Coal City looming at the end of the season, the margin of error remains very thin for the Irish.
“You gotta get one before you get two, you gotta get two before you get three – we just gotta take that mentality to get to 5-1,” O’Boyle said.