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Rough start sinks Greenfield-Northwestern football in state semifinal

Drake Pembrook (left) and Kohen Vetter (right) were recently named to the All-State high school football team for Greenfield-Northwestern. The senior duo led the Tigers to their first undefeated regular season in 16 years, as well as a WIVC South title and a berth in this year’s IHSA Class 1A state semifinal. Photo contributed.

 

Tigers eliminated by Camp Point Central again

By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter

Heading into an Illinois High School Association Class 1A semifinal clash between WIVC champions Greenfield-Northwestern and Camp Point Central, the vast majority of fans, particularly neutral observers, were anticipating a back-and-forth battle as the two rivals reunited for a postseason rematch.

Camp Point Central’s players had other ideas.

For the second year in a row, the Panthers booted the Tigers from the playoffs. This time, they didn’t let Greenfield hang around. A 54-20 victory was quite the upgrade from a 24-12 draw in 2022.

On the other side, the Tigers finally bowed their heads in defeat for the first time in 13 weeks, one win shy of their program’s first state championship berth since 1991.

Greenfield-Northwestern entered this game with one of the lowest turnover rates in the state. Unfortunately, that high-quality I.Q. never materialized at Camp Point. The Tigers gave away the football five times, with four of the those miscues occurring in the first half.

After the Panthers had set the tone on an 18-play 80-yard touchdown drive that ate up nine of the 12 minutes in the opening quarter, the Tigers misplayed back-to-back kickoffs, thus gifting a dynamite Camp Point offense short field positioning. The Panthers, of course, took advantage and kept doing so as Greenfield-Northwestern continued to shoot itself in the foot. All-State Quarterback Dylan Pembrook, who went the entire regular season without committing a turnover, threw a pair of interceptions over the course of five plays, which allowed the Panthers to ultimately pull away.

Assisted by non-stop Tiger mishaps, Camp Point Central compiled the semifinal’s first 32 points and took a lopsided 38-6 lead into halftime. The Panthers stayed hot down the stretch and finished the game with seven touchdowns on as many possessions against a fatigued Greenfield defense.

Pembrook finished strong with a pair of touchdown passes in the second half and surpassed the 2,000-yard marker for his senior season. Pembrook, which previously found the end zone to get the Tigers on the board prior to the intermission, ended his high school career with 47 touchdown throws to eight interceptions and nearly 3,500 yards. Pembrook racked up 30 of those touchdown passes in 2023 alone.

Joining Pembrook on the IHSA Class 1A All-State team was Greenfield-Northwestern running back and fellow classmate Kohen Vetter, who produced over 3,300 rushing yards and 44 touchdowns throughout his career. Vetter also snatched nine interceptions as a defensive cornerback.

Pembrook and Vetter headline a senior core that brought the Greenfield-Northwestern program 36 wins in 41 games as well as its deepest playoff run since 1996 and the Tigers’ first undefeated regular season in 16 years. The class of 2024 also consists of Nathan Nord, Dakota Camerer, Griffin Roberts, Dane Chism, Ben Pruiett, Joey Price, Charlie Fairfield, Logan Lawton, Brody Reif and Maddax Coffey.

Greenfield-Northwestern, which won its fourth WIVC South title in five years, finishes the 2023 season 12-1 overall.

Camp Point Central, the champions of the WIVC North, returns to the IHSA 1A title game looking to avenge a defeat that came at the hands of three-time defending state champion Lena-Winslow last fall. Both teams enter the grand finale 13-0.

IHSA STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS (played at Hancock Stadium in Normal)

1A Lena Winslow vs. Camp Point Central – Friday at 10 a.m.
2A Athens vs. Wilmington – Friday at 1 p.m.
3A Byron vs. Mt. Carmel – Friday at 4 p.m.
4A Rochester vs. Burbank (St. Laurence) – Friday at 7 p.m.
5A LaGrange Park vs. Joliet Catholic Academy – Saturday at 10 a.m.
6A East St. Louis vs. Cary Grove – Saturday at 1 p.m.
7A Downers Grove (North) vs. Chicago (Mt. Carmel) – Saturday at 4 p.m.
8A Wilmette (Loyola Academy) vs. Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East) – Saturday at 7 p.m.