By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
The Greenfield-Northwestern Tigers had a 12-0 lead halfway through the third round of Illinois High School Association Class 1A playoffs, but were tamed down the stretch and couldn’t hold on against Northern WIVC rival Camp Point Central.
Greenfield-Northwestern simply ran out of gas and went out with a 24-12 loss.
For the Tigers, nobody thought how the season would transpire due to the team having a completely different roster built from scratch. Heartbreak was evident in defeat but, at the same time, the communities of Greenfield and Palmyra could still rejoice and celebrate the program’s deepest playoff run in 15 years.
The Tigers went 10-2 this season and won a WIVC Southern championship along the way.
During its win against Cumberland in the previous round, Joe Pembrook’s crew was able to eat up large chunks of time with efficient clock management. That same strength was on display at Camp Point. The Tigers used 18 plays to produce six points on the game’s opening drive, while maintaining possession of the football for almost the entire first quarter. Greenfield-Northwestern ventured 82 yards in 11 minutes for the score.
The Tigers had quite a bit of ground to cover en route to its second touchdown, having to start from their own 30. However, that was anything but a big deal for the powerful rushing tandem of Brett Bilbruck and Kohen Vetter. Bilbruck provided a boost as he moved Greenfield to midfield on a 21-yard venture.
Shortly after, Vetter rampaged the remaining 51 yards to double the lead.
Camp Point cut into the deficit, 12-8, with 7:21 remaining in the third, but the Tigers had a golden opportunity to respond. After the Greenfield-Northwestern defense had forced a key three-and-out and pinned the hosts back at their own 16 on a key sack, the undefeated Panthers seemingly put their season in jeopardy as they gave the Tigers terrific field position on a muffed punt that caused the football to sail straight above the line of scrimmage and roll backwards when it hit the ground. As a result, Greenfield-Northwestern only needed nine yards to restore its multi-possession advantage and put Camp Point Central up against the ropes.
The Tigers eliminated eight yards on two carries, but were denied on a goal line stand that drastically shifted the momentum. Bilbruck was pushed back to the three-yard marker on third down and then Dylan Pembrook fumbled the football to the Panthers as he tried to punch it in on a quarterback keeper rush to the outside. To the naked eye, Pembrook looked to have potentially broke the plane of the goal line before the ball came out, but the officials said that he was inches short.
Upon securing a touchback, Camp Point ventured 80 yards on 15 plays to take a 14-12 lead. With the game and season arguably on the line, the Panthers came through in the clutch and scored their biggest touchdown of the year on a 20-yard pass that came on fourth-and-three with just over seven minutes to go in the game. Camp Point also converted a two-point attempt to make it 16-12.
In desperation, the Tigers tried to crash the party but were stopped on fourth down from the Camp Point 47. The defense was able to force a fourth down of its own in the same area, but the Panthers kept its struggling punting unit on the sideline and went for the dagger. They needed just two yards, but instead ended up with 50 on a perfectly-executed touchdown sweep that shredded a Tiger blitz and removed all doubt.
Camp Point Central advanced to the IHSA Class 1A semifinal against Colfax.