Chillicothe beats Pius, grabs playoff spot
By Brian Spano PrepsKC Senior writer
The Chillicothe Hornets football team traveled nearly 90 minutes south to St. Pius X Thursday night for a win-and-advance-or-lose-and-go-home district playoff game. With the thought of last year’s 42-12 loss to the Warriors simmering in the back of the minds, the Hornets were not going to let this opportunity slip away.
Chillicothe, 5-5, and their fans went home happy with a 21-13 victory and second place in Class 3, District 16. They advance to play in next Wednesday’s playoff game against Richmond.
“We talked to our kids about the pride that our program has and playing hard, and they came out and did that tonight for us,” Hornets head coach Phil Willard said of the win.
Chillicothe won this game with the typical defense and ground game, using the legs of junior D.J. Gannan and senior Guy Vinson. Gannan had two scores and 127 yards rushing, while Vinson finished the night with a touchdown and 99 yards.
“That’s just part of execution of football,” Willard said of his one-two punch in the backfield. “You have to have the people up front doing a lot of work. In our offense, our backs have to block well too, or you don’t move it, and the last two games we’ve been a lot more consistent with our blocking schemes and people making calls up front.”
The Hornets got on the board first during their opening drive of the game when Gannan went in from five yards out.
St. Pius, 5-5, came back early in the second quarter to briefly take the lead 7-6 on a one-yard plunge into the end zone from quarterback Grant Gavin.
Gannan struck again less than two minutes later on a 36-yard run. The two-point conversion was good, and the Hornets jumped back on top 14-7 at halftime.
“Our line was doing a great job,” said Gannan. “We’re improving so much over the season, and it’s a great thing to see. Our line did an incredible job tonight both offense and defense. We just run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, and it seems to work.”
Gavin hooked up with Phillip Vutich for a 24-yard strike to cut the lead to one, in the third quarter, but later in the frame, Vinson added another score for Chillicothe on an 18-yard run.
The Hornets defense took over, putting an end to the Warriors season. Chillicothe gave up just 87 yards on the ground and 151 yards through the air, holding Gavin to 12 of 27 passing two sacks.
“We struggled a little bit defensively all year being inconsistent,” said Willard. “Our defensive coordinator Jeff Staton came to me and we switched a couple of things up because of some injuries that we had to work some other guys into, and he just did a great job putting a game plan together. We had some opportunities in the secondary. We dropped some interceptions, but we’re still pleased with the performance they came through with on defense.”
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