LENA, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — The Lena-Winslow Panthers and the DuPec Rivermen finished off their seasons today, in what felt like a championship matchup between two heavyweight teams.
DuPec junior quarterback Hunter Hoffman has lit up the Northern Upstate Illini Conference all season, so all eyes were on him to deliver in a big game. On the junior’s first pass of the game he threw an interception, but settled down shortly thereafter connecting with senior receiver Gabe Howard for an 80-yard touchdown to give them the early 7-0 lead.
In the second, Le-Win found the end zone as Ethan Fye punched it in from the one-yard line to retake the lead, 8-7. Fye later left the game after being tackled on the last play of the first half. There was some controversy around the play as the referees did not throw a flag for an apparent horsecollar tackle that resulted in Fye slamming his head on the turf. He would not return for the remainder of the game.
Before the half, Hoffman led a long drive that was capped off by a short touchdown run from Howard, his second of the game. That gave DuPec a 14-8 lead at halftime.
Early in the second half, DuPec running back Trenton Taylor broke free for a long touchdown run, that extended the Rivermen’s lead to 21-8.
Despite being down, Lena-Winslow forced a major momentum shift halfway through the fourth quarter after senior linebacker Jack Sederstrom blocked a DuPec punt and returned it for a touchdown. After a successful two-point conversion, the lead was just 5. 21-16.
Just as things began to get interesting, a quick three and out drive by DuPec gave Lena-Winslow the ball back with roughly three minutes to play.
The Panthers ground and pound offense worked their magic, and another questionable horsecollar tackle scenario unfolded, this time to their advantage. From inside the red zone, Le-Win quarterback was yanked down by what looked like the back of his jersey, but the referees threw a flag giving the Panthers a fresh set of downs from just outside the five with less than 30 seconds to play.
In the closing seconds, Benson handed it off the running back Evan England who was initially stopped short, but his second effort and the help of his lineman pushed him into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with 12.6 seconds left.
In a game that will be remembered for years, Lena-Winslow completes the late-game heroic comeback to beat DuPec, 24-21.