EUREKA — Senior day couldn't have gone much better for the Eureka football team and its 15 seniors at McKinzie Field on Saturday.
The Red Devils handled Concordia Wisconsin 24-0, recording the team's first shutout in over four years.
Eureka's defense held the visitors to just 125 yards of total offense, limiting the rushing game to 98 yards on 20 carries and holding the passing game to just 38 yards on 18 passes. Concordia Wisconsin was forced to punt eight times and turned the ball over on downs once.
On the other side of the ball, Eureka tallied 356 total yards on 77 offensive plays while possessing the ball for 42:30 to Concordia Wisconsin's 17:30.
Junior running back Joe Hughes (Normal, Ill./University)) rushed for 148 yards on 29 carries and scored two of the Red Devils' three touchdowns. Quarterback Drew Barth (Minonk, Ill./Fieldcrest) threw for 137 yards on 12-of-20 passing in his final home game, finding fellow senior Wesley Burris (Monmouth, Ill./Monmouth-Roseville) for a touchdown, and connecting with senior and leading receiver James Douglas III (Orlando, Fla./Deltona) for a game-high six receptions for 90 yards.
With the maroon and gold in control from start to finish, the game whizzed by, only lasting 2 hours, 18 minutes. And when it was over, there was gratitude, satisfaction and bittersweet feelings hanging in the crisp autumn air.
"Man, it's great," senior Austin McCArty (Oakwood, Ill./Oakwood) said. "It's the last time for these seniors, including myself, to get to play here … and in front of these home fans, we just had a great time, it was a great atmosphere, and not many people get a shutout in the last game of their last season.
"I'm not really an emotional guy, but knowing this is one of the last games I'm ever going to play kind of hit deep a little bit. Especially when they took me out in the fourth quarter, it just sunk in."
After setting the tone with a defensive three-and-out, the Red Devils got on the board after a 15-play, 82-yard drive that lasted nearly 7 1/2 minutes. It featured a game-long 35-yard rush by Hughes and ended with a 3-yard Hughes touchdown dash.
A 31-yard field goal by senior kicker/punter Tanner Kuhne extended the lead to 10 points with 7:46 left in the first half. Then, after a nine-play, 65-yard drive that included a 20-yard reception by Pierce Bradford (Decatur, Ill./Argenta-Oreana), Hughes punched in another 3-yarder to make it 17-0 before the half.
Eureka's final touchdown of the game came on a 4-yard toss from Barth to Burris, both four-year seniors and big contributors in the Red Devils' success in recent years.
"Holding back tears," Burris said after the game. "One more game left, and it's over. It's very emotional."
In the game's final minutes, Red Devils fans cheered as other seniors made notable contributions. Backup QB Nick Holman (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) burst eight yards up the middle for a first down, and energetic linebacker Chris Fleischman (Tinley Park, Ill./Providence Catholic ) made an emphatic stop.
Another senior, Grant Jochums (Minonk, Ill./Fieldcrest) added 46 rushing yards on 14 carries and delivered a couple of key blocks. Freshman Alex Brittain (Eureka, Ill./Eureka) led the Red Devils in tackles for the fourth straight game with seven. McCarty and Mason Diederich (Washington, Ill./Washington) each delivered five, and Julius Peyton (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) had four.
Amari Smith (Hazel Crest, Ill./Hillcrest) broke up two passes, while seniors Trevon Moore (Aurora, Ill./Waubonsie Valley), Adrian Walker (St. Louis, Mo./Parkway North), Matt Sutton (Dunlap, Ill./Dunlap) and freshman Lane Short (Gibson City, Ill./Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley) each had one pass break-up.
It ended as the Red Devils' first shutout since a 35-0 triumph at Iowa Wesleyan on Oct. 17, 2015, before this senior class began their journeys 'Neath The Ems.
After the game, Hughes reflected on how much this senior group has meant to him the past two years, particularly when he was sidelined by injury at the beginning of this season.
"These seniors, this team in general, always kept me up," he said. "Just always told me I could do it.
"It's sad. I love these seniors to death. I would never wish anything better than this. This is the best feeling, honestly."
The Red Devils (5-4, 3-3 Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference) will run it back one more time next Saturday in a 12 p.m. season finale at Rockford (1-8, 0-6, NACC).