SENECA – Coal City took care of business Friday night, defeating Seneca, 28-6, in Interstate Eight Conference crossover football to become playoff eligible.
Coal City (5-4) had to await official announcement of the playoff pairings Saturday night to be sure of its fate. The Coalers entered Week 9 with 37 opponents’ wins, and will face No. 2 Marengo (9-0) on the road in the first round.
“I think we’re good with points,” Coal City coach Lenny Onsen said. “A 5-4 team, you know your draw, what it’s going to be. We put ourselves in this boat.’ ”
Earning their fifth win to become playoff eligible remained in doubt early.
Seneca’s Logan Pifer followed up a 57-yard run with a 2-yard touchdown to give the Fighting Irish the lead after a minute and a half.
An injury to the Coalers’ usual workhorse, Joe Starkey, opened the door for senior Mark Norton to get eight carries on their opening series. He picked up three first downs before scoring a 1-yard touchdown.
Norton, more typically used as a lead blocker, added a two-point conversion run for what would prove to be the winning points at the 6:47 mark of the first quarter.
“I was expecting [the workload]. Our first back went down last week,” Norton said. “The line did a good job of opening up holes wide open. Just hit the hole hard and follow them.”
Danny Kroeger’s interception of the first Seneca pass attempt of the game early in the second quarter led to a Nick Micetich 4-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper. Seneca fumbled on its first play of the next drive, with Coal City’s Junior Arias recovering, and a Norton 7-yard touchdown run gave the Coalers a 22-7 halftime lead. The score remained that way until Coal City’s Nick Hayden added a late 7-yard touchdown run.
Seneca, which had another lost fumble recovered by Coal City’s Alec Leasure in the first quarter, rushed for 199 yards and had 11 first downs, but the early turnovers dashed hopes for an upset. The Irish also had a pair of second-half drives extend deep into Coaler territory before stalling.
“We knew coming in that we had to shrink the game up. We had to keep hold of the ball, and obviously not turn it over,” Seneca coach Ted O’Boyle said. “We weren’t good enough to be able to overcome stuff like that.”
Pifer totaled 127 rushing yards and also had an interception he returned 49 yards for the Irish (2-7).
Coal City now has won three straight games and 11 of the past 12 in the series with the Irish.