Eureka Holds Off Rockford to Cap Season, 38-28

Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.
Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.

 ROCKFORD, Ill. – The Eureka football team ended the 2019 campaign on a winning note Saturday.

The Red Devils held off the Regents 38-28 in a back-and-forth North Athletics Collegiate Conference season finale at Rockford.

Joe Hughes (Normal, Ill./University) recorded a game-high 149 rushing yards on 33 carries and scored a touchdown for EC. Senior Wesley Burris (Monmouth, Ill./Monmouth-Roseville) made two crucial touchdown receptions and caught three passes for 27 yards.

James Douglas III (Orlando, Fla./Deltona) scored a touchdown off a 70-yard punt return and was the Red Devils' leading receiver with eight receptions for 64 yards.

And on the defensive end, Amari Smith (Hazel Crest, Ill./Hillcrest) stepped up and delivered a 44-yard pick-6 in the fourth quarter to give the Red Devils some breathing room down the stretch.

The Red Devils out-possessed the home team 38:46 to 21:14 on the day.

Eureka started the game strong. Bryson Smith (Cisco, Ill./Monticello) sacked Rockford quarterback Christian Mazurkiewicz on the first play of the game, and the Red Devils forced a quick three-and-out.

That set up Douglas' electrifying 70-yard punt return for a touchdown to put the Red Devils on the board.

After another EC stop, the white jerseys drove 80 yards in 11 plays over nearly six minutes and scored a touchdown on a 1-yard carry by Hughes.

In the second quarter, however, Rockford punched back with a 13-play, 94-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard TD rush by Mazurkiewicz and a two-point conversion that made it a six-point game.

A 28-yard field goal by EC senior kicker Tanner Kuhne (Princeton, Ill./Princeton) made it 17-8 with 1:46 remaining in the half, but the Regents quickly responded with a big play.

A 75-yard catch-and-run by Kalan Miller made it a two-point game at the half, 17-15.

Neither team managed to move the score in the third quarter, but a 4-yard TD toss from quarterback Drew Barth (Minonk, Ill./Fieldcrest) to Burris opened an eventful fourth.

Kuhne's extra point made it 24-15 with 13:34 left. Less than two minutes later, Rockford's LaVar Johnson Jr. found Adam Ambrogio for a 46-yard TD heave that trimmed the lead to two again at 24-22 with 11:42 left.

It stayed that way until 5 1/2 minutes later when Barth hooked up with Burris on 4th and 8 from the 15. After multiple bobbles, the senior fullback secured the ball and stormed into the end zone.

Leading 31-22, Smith's interception and trot home extended the lead to 16 points with 3:42 remaining.

Rockford scored once more on a 13-yard touchdown reception by Ambrogio and made it a 10-point game, but that was as close as the Regents would come.

Barth recorded completed 14 of 25 passes, scored two touchdowns, had one interception and tallied 172 all-purpose yards. In his final game as a Red Devil, he surpassed Nick Lindsey (2006-09) for second place in career completions in program history with 434 all-time.

On the other side of the ball, EC had four total sacks. In addition to Smith's, Brendan Durr (Washington, Ill./Washington) and Chris Fleischman (Tinley Park, Ill./Providence Catholic) each had one, and Julius Peyton (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) and Austin McCarty (Oakwood, Ill./Oakwood) teamed up for another.

Peyton and senior Adrian Walker (St. Louis, Mo./Parkway North) tied for a team-high six total tackles, while Nehemiah Butler (Elmwood, Ill./Elmwood), Durr and McCarty and each had five.

Senior Trevon Moore (Aurora, Ill./Waubonsie Valley) added two more pass breakups to his career total, putting him at 58 in four seasons. He entered the game second in the nation among active Division III players.

Dylan Garrett (Vandalia, Ill./Vandalia) also had two pass breakups, and Walker and Alex Brittain (Eureka, Ill./Eureka) each added one.

The Red Devils complete the 2019 campaign with a 6-4 record (4-3 NACC), securing the program's fourth straight winning season. The four-year seniors leave the program as its winningest class, posting a record of 31-11 with two conference titles.