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Local Sports

Defense, running game power Coal City

STREATOR – Five interceptions by its defense and a combined five touchdowns by its two primary running backs keyed Coal City to a 41-12 Interstate Eight Conference Large football defeat of Streator on Friday.

Brad Littleton and Danny Kroeger each had two interceptions for the Coalers, who are now 4-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play, with Junior Arias adding the fifth. For Kroeger, a junior, they are the first two interceptions of his varsity career.

“It’s a great feeling,” Kroeger said. “Just been a lot of hard work to get to this point.”

Nick Hayden was the more frequent scorer of the two Coaler backs, getting three touchdowns to Joe Starkey’s two, but Starkey rolled up 178 yards on 16 carries to Hayden’s 77 on 11.

“I told him in the hallway today, I said, ‘Joe, you’re going to have a good game.’ Just the way he practiced,” Coal City coach Lenny Onsen said. “We got the offensive line doing some things, and then Nick coming in there, changing the pace a little bit.”

The Coal City offense did not exactly come charging out of the gate, however. Its first drive ended in an interception, and its next two in punts. Coal City’s offense did not touch the ball when Streator went three-and-out at that point, as the Coalers lost a fumble on the resultant punt.

But after a kick catch interference penalty when the Bulldogs punted back to the Coalers, they found a groove. Quarterback Nick Micetich’s rolled out and took off for an eight-yard touchdown run that broke a scoreless tie halfway through the second quarter. The Coalers needed all of two plays to score again after forcing another Streator punt, as Hayden broke off a 27-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs hit a 33-yard touchdown pass from Christian Price to Isaiah Jones just before halftime to keep it a one-possession game.

A Hayden 17-yard carry to the end zone late in the third quarter started the transformation of the game into a rout. A Kroeger interception on the first play of the fourth quarter led to a Joe Starkey 3-yard touchdown run, and a Littleton pick was followed by another Hayden score from one yard out. Starkey followed a long Bulldog touchdown run with yet another score as time wound down.

The Coalers can become playoff eligible next week with a victory over currently unbeaten Manteno.

“We challenged ’em to play better in the second half. I thought they answered the bell, and hopefully it’s something we can improve on and keep moving on,” Onsen said. “We got a tough home game next week against Manteno, we got to play extremely well, but hopefully we took some strides tonight.”

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