By Chris Johnson

Sports Correspondent

The Forreston Cardinals are in Ottawa this weekend and sit one game away from a visit to Champaign and a shot at the Class 1A Title. On Saturday, Nov. 12, the Cardinals displaced the Lena-Winslow Panthers from the ranks of qualifiers by a final score of 44-7. Forreston now faces Marquette High School in LaSalle County this weekend for the right to face the survivor from the other two members of the Class 1A Final Four. Hardin-Calhoun upset top-seed Tuscola on Saturday and will face Decatur-St. Theresa for the right to get to Champaign.

The Cardinals exploited early miscues and began to see their quarterfinal lead growing to two-scores in the first period. Lena-Winslow would come back and cut into the deficit heading into the second period. The Forreston offense revisited in the second quarter and found holes and added scores. At the half, the Cardinals held the 30-7 lead.

At the half some adjustments had to be made by Panther’s Head Coach Ric Arand. They had to find ways to stop the big play Forreston was implementing in its attack. Runs of 50-plus were not going to help Lena-Winslow’s position. In the third period, the Panthers did their job. They stopped the Forreston offense. The outsides were getting sealed and the inside track was getting squeezed. Neither team scored in the third as the Cardinals held the 30-7 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Forreston found ways to score points in a hurry this season. The proficiency on the offensive side has been highly visible into the late season and into the early rounds of the Class 1A Tournament. Since an Oct. 21 win over the Pecatonica Indians, 44-0, to close the season, Forreston has averaged nearly 50 points a game with wins over State Qualifiers and former State Champions. Forreston’s defense has allowed 21 points over those same four games of the season.

A mistake opened the fourth quarter for Lena-Winslow and Forreston gladly accepted the offering. Following a quick score to open the period, the Cardinals got the ball back and scored a second time. With less than one minute gone in the final period, the 23-point deficit Lena-Winslow faced jumped to almost 40. Forreston’s efforts gave them a 44-7 lead, one they would never relinquish.

The offense this season has been dangerous for Forreston’s opponents. Head Coach Denny Diduch knows that has a lot to do with the chances the defense has been giving them and the field position the team has earned as a result. The team Forreston will have to face this weekend has also seen the same type of success. The Marquette Crusaders scored more points than Forreston this season, by almost a touchdown a game. Their defense however, has given up just under four points more per game.

Only one team will move on to Champaign following this weekend’s game. The Forreston Cardinals chances are very good, even though a game on the road will mean about a two-hour road trip, they are not a team that other teams really want to have to deal with right now. They are playing like a champion. They are going to be tough to beat. The to-seed Crusaders get to be home this weekend. That could help them try.

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

AJ Christensen runs for a 5-yard gain during the second quarter of the Class 1A playoff game in Forreston Saturday, Nov. 5. Forreston crushed Stark County 43-14 in that game and then went on to smash Lena-Winslow 44-7 on Saturday, Nov 12. The Cardinals will now face Marquette High School in LaSalle County this weekend.

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