Peotone ends historic season with loss to IC Catholic
PEOTONE — For Peotone coach Tolly Tsiamas, his team’s strategy to pull the upset against defending 3A champion Immaculate Conception Friday night was simple: win the possession battle in the first half, and keep things close throughout the second half.
The Blue Devils were able to execute the first half of the gameplan to perfection, and for the most part, executed the second half of the gameplan as well. But in the end, Immaculate Conception was too much to handle as the Knights advanced 29-16 on a cold night in Peotone.
The Blue Devils season ends at 9-2, the best final record since 1981 (9-1).
“I don’t care what the scoreboard says, these kids are winners in my book,” Tsiamas said. “It’s over for this year, but we’ll be back.”
After a fumble followed by a Haiden Smith 37-yard field goal, Peotone’s defense continued its stellar play and held the Knights scoreless through the first quarter.
“We needed a break or two, and got one on the turnover, and then put a nice little drive together and got that field goal” Tsiamas said. “We held on to the ball, our time of possession was 19 minutes in the first half, and that was kind of the plan.”
Aside from a Lazerick Eatman 72-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter, the Blue Devils played a fantastic first half defensively, and went into the locker room with an 8-3 deficit at the half.
“We just wanted to keep it close and give (Immaculate Conception) a game in the second half, because that’s something they haven’t had all year,” Tsiamas said.
And that’s exactly what happened. But it didn’t take long for the Knights’ offense to get going in the second half. Eatman scored his second of three total touchdowns on a 15-yard run on the first possession of the half.
That’s when Peotone senior running back Chandler Gartner began to make his mark on the game. After struggling to get much going in the first half, Gartner broke loose for a 58-yard touchdown run to pull the Blue Devils back to a 16-10 deficit.
After IC put together a drive that included a 25-yard Khalil Saunders reception on 4th down and Eatman’s third touchdown, C.J. West capped off another strong IC drive to put his team up 29-10 in the fourth.
But Gartner struck again, this time with a 53-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Jacob Schiesow to make it a 29-16 contest.
Nathan Battiato recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff giving Peotone some life, but turned it over on downs as the Knights kneeled out the final minute.
“We got something going on offense in the second half,” Tsiamas said. “But to IC’s credit, every time we got close, they put together a nice drive.”
End of an Era
For Gartner, who added 101 rushing yards to his all-time rushing record at Peotone, which now stands at over 3,500 yards, coming up so close was painful.
“I thought we were right back in it,” Gartner said. “We had the motivation, but an interception and a couple of missed assignments, and it just didn’t work out. It hurts a lot, but I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else with anyone else. I’m proud of our team. We started as a family and ended as a family.”
While the senior running back, linebacker and punter played his last game as a Blue Devil Friday, he hopes so see Peotone back in the thick of the playoff hunt next year.
“We made a statement across the state,” Gartner said. “Everybody is going to look at Peotone differently next year and they have every reason to.”