By Chris Johnson

Sports Correspondent

Stark County faced a Forreston team that was nothing like the one they defeated last year in the IHSA State Football Playoffs. The Rebels weren’t ready for the newer and stronger version and were rolled 43-14 and sent out of the Class 1A Tournament with an 8-3 record.

Forreston entered the Saturday second-rounder with the understanding of how dangerous of a team Stark County was. They were aware that containing them would be a challenge. The Rebels are known to score quickly, especially when the passing game is in sync. They play tough up front. Head Coach Denny Diduch and his Cardinals’ combatants also knew the Rebels carried a great balance of power and speed. They had the confidence to be able to handle it as well.

Stark County might not have been aware how good Forreston’s defense was. Diduch commented that his team had to make some adjustments.

“They were running well. They were getting five and seven yard gains. Our corner and safety had to start paying more attention to the running backs. We did enough to slow them down to get hits on them.”

Throughout the season, teams have found it difficult to anticipate Forreston’s quickness at the linebacker and safety positions until it is too late. They aren’t perfect though. Work continues to have to be done in the pursuit of a State Title.

Forreston grabbed the 7-0 edge after Aj Christensen struck on one of his first exchanges of the day and ran away for a touchdown carry of 65-yards. The Shawn Wedmaier kick was good and the Cardinals were setting up to soar. Rebels’ quarterback Cade Tuthill responded as he found his star receiver Logan Knobloch and connected on a 62-yard strike. Gavin Fuchs registered a three-yard score for Forreston in the first period to help his team’s edge climb to seven at the end of the first quarter, 14-7.

In the second quarter a decision by Diduch led to a field goal attempt and successful try by Wedmaier as time was winding down. Stark County would have outscored Forreston in the second quarter, 7-6, had the three-point attempt not been made. The 21-yard shot, paired with a touchdown strike gave Forreston the 23-14 lead at the half. It was a two-score game.

Stark County would not be able to move the ball effectively against Forreston in the second half. The Cardinals added13 points in the third and a final tally in the final frame to win 43-14.

Individual performances were highlighted in the Cardinals fast-paced attack. With the pressure of the playoffs in front of him and the memory of Stark County from a season before, Aj Christensen ran for 268 yards and scored four times. Matt Akins carried the ball 15 times for 88 yards and Garett Badertscher had eleven carries for 74 yards. Quarterback Hunter Daws was 3-8 for 31 yards for Forreston.

The Cardinals won at the line. They overran the Rebels line and powered forward with the win to improve to 11-0 on the season. They will play this Saturday at Lena-Winslow in the State Quarterfinal.

There is a lot to focus on with the Panthers now. The 13-7 win the Cardinals experienced just weeks ago over Lena-Winslow in NUIC action is just a memory for Head Coach Denny Diduch and his Cardinals. They know it seems the Lena-Winslow Panthers consistently play their best ball in late November. Lena-Winslow defeated Catlin-Salt Fork in their second round game 35-21 to advance to the quarterfinal.

A win over the Panthers would mean the Cardinals will be home next week in the Class 1A Semi-Final, if Aquin knocks out Marquette. A win by Forreston and a win by Marquette would mean the Cardinals would be on the road in the Class 1A Semi-Final next week in Ottawa.

The NUIC was well represented this post-season and there are still two weeks of playoff football to go. Only Marquette has the power to prevent the NUIC from being featured in Champaign in two weeks in the Class 1A State Championship Game.

during the first quarter of the Class 1A playoff game atForreston Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. RANDY STUKENBERG/CORRESPONDENT/RRSTAR.COM & THE JOURNAL-STANDARD

Forreston’s Gavin Fuchs tackles Stark County’s Wyatt Schupp during the first quarter of the Class 1A playoff game in Forreston Saturday, Nov. 5, Forreston crushed Stark County 43-14 and will face Lena-Winslow Saturday.

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