SPRING VALLEY — It just wasn’t meant to be.
The Hall Red Devils struck for a 54-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Taggart Venegas to Collin Aimone with 5:45 remaining in Saturday’s 2A second-round playoff game to close within 14-13 of visiting Momence.
Hall was unable to convert the point after kick and trailed by one. The Red Devils allowed Momence to score on a 27-yard run so the Redskins could not run the clock out.
Trailing 21-13 with 1:35 left to play, the Red Devils were able to move from the Momence 45 to the 21 in six plays, picking up a first down on a six-yard pass from Venegas to A.J. Gaeta.
Venegas threw three incomplete passes and was sacked on fourth down to end the Red Devils’ comeback bid, falling 21-13.
Randy Tieman addressed his team on the the field after the game, then gathered his 12 seniors for the final time, most of whom came through the ranks with him from youth football up to the IHSA playoffs. There were more than a few tears shed.
“That’s a special group to me. I’ve been with them for six years. It’s the last time we’ll do it together. That was tough,” Tieman said. “They meant a lot. They helped bring this program back this year. Hopefully, next year’s seniors will continue to do that and we’ll grow from that.”
Hall bows out with a 7-4 record, having made its first playoff appearance in six years. With its second straight road victory in tow, Momence (8-3) advances to host Sterling Newman (10-1).
Hall struck late in the second quarter on a 31-yard pass from Venegas to Jacob Byczynski, who hauled the catch over Momence’s Jesse Fulwiley. Matt Krolak’s PAT tied the game at 7-7.
After a scoreless third quarter, Momence capped a eight-play, 64-yard scoring drive on a five-yard pass from Aaron Cantwell to Zach Hammon to go up 14-7 with the PAT.
Hall answered with a quick strike two possessions later when Venegas connected with Aimone, who outraced the Momence secondary on his 54-yard TD romp.
“We knew if they are going to help over the top, he was going to beat that kid. We couldn’t get that matchup again the rest of game,” Tieman said.
Momence broke through the line on the Hall conversion attempt and may have got a hand on the kick, which went low and to the left.
“It looked like somebody got through,” Tieman said.
Then some strategy paid off for Hall.
On the suggestion of assistant coach Ryan Ferrari, Hall elected to allow Momence to score an uncontested touchdown with Geno Wendes having the honors from 27 yards out. Had they not done so, Momence could have picked up the first down and ran the clock out.
“We had to let them score to get the ball back. That was the only thing we could do. Coach Ferrari yelled it out, and we all agreed to it,” Tieman said.
The move caught Momence completely by surprise,
“I was really surprised they let us score,” Momence coach Matt Fox said. “That’s a (gutsy) move. It almost paid off. If we get a first down there and take a knee, they don’t get a chance. At least they got a chance. I tip my hat to him. I don’t know if I could have done that.”
Momence kicker Jon Salazar gave the Red Devils a break when he was flagged for taunting the Hall student section following his PAT kick. With the 15-yard penalty, Momence was forced to kick off from their own 25 rather than 40.
That extra boost almost made the difference as Hall drove 24 yards to the Momence, but stalled out when Venegas was sacked on fourth down to take over on downs.
“I thought Spring Valley Hall had really good energy early in the game, and we didn’t do a good job matching that and a made a few mistakes the first half. I think a lot of that you can attribute to the way Spring Valley was playing,” Fox said
“We were able to put a couple things together second half. Honestly our defense and kicking game kept us in the game. Kept the score close and we were able to sneak a score in their and get an extra point.”
Momence took a 7-0 lead lead with 1:50 left in the first quarter on a 36-yard romp by Fulwiley.
Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com