CRETE | Bloom Township pushed Times No. 3 Crete-Monee to the limit on Friday night.
When the game was on the line, it was the Warriors defense that pushed and pushed until they forced the Blazing Trojans back and held on for a 12-7 Southland Athletic Conference win on Friday.
It was Crete-Monee's 30th straight conference going back to the old SICA South. The Warriors have never lost a SAC game.
"We just had to push them back. No way were they getting into the end zone," Crete defensive end Chris Slayton said. "They pushed us hard. We knew we had to come up with a big play to stop them."
That Crete (6-1, 3-0) did as the defending Class 6A state champs clinched their seventh straight playoff berth. It was Slayton who came up big as the Blazing Trojans (4-3, 1-2) had a first-and-goal at the Crete 9 and were going for the potential go-ahead score. Justus Brantley (122 yards, TD) ran it to the 4. A penalty put it back on the 9 when Jordan Benavides threw a screen pass to Brantley, but Slayton threw him for a loss of 10. A few plays later Chris Jernigan sacked Benavides and Bloom turned the ball over on downs with 1:58 left.
"Chris came up real big for us. The whole defense did when we needed it," Crete coach John Konecki said. "That was the game, and we didn't buckle. We made the plays that we needed to make."
The Blazing Trojans played most of the second half without quarterback Kendall McGinnis, who suffered a cramp to his left calf with 6:51 left in the third quarter.
"That hurt us a little with Kendall out of there," Brantley said. "We didn't adjust, and we just made some big mistakes at the end. Some penalties, not executing."
Brantley's 59-yard run put Bloom up 7-0 with 3:32 left in the second quarter. He broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage, then cut to the left and ran untouched.
"I got a few good blocks," Brantley said. "I saw the opening and took off."
Crete came back as Frank Douglas hit Kevon Love in the corner of the end zone with 1:00 left, but the PAT kick was no good and the Blazing Trojans led 12-7 at the half.
The Warriors stopped Bloom to start the third quarter and their first possession, Trevon Smith (66 yards) capped an eight-play, 71-yard drive with a 40-yard touchdown run to make it 12-7.
"My blockers opened up a nice hole for me," Smith said. "Once I got past (the line), I kept going, looked for that pylon, tried to get an angle on it. My feet wouldn't stop going until I hit the end zone."
Bloom coach Tony Palombi said his team hurt itself at the end, but can learn from this game.
"You cannot have penalties when you are in the red zone and especially against a good team like Crete," Palombi said. "I told the kids, challenged them, that we can self-destruct after this game or we can learn from it and come back and try to make the playoffs."