FENNIMORE — In the absence of leading receiver/corner back Trevor Neuroth, Fennimore did just enough to survive and advance.
Junior quarterback Reid Larson returned from a hip injury to throw for 178 yards and the Eagles’ offensive line helped grind out 119 yards rushing against a stout defensive front in a 15–8 victory over visiting Pecatonica/Argyle in Friday’s WIAA Division 7 Level 1 playoff game.
Senior Liam Kenney assumed the role of number one receiver with Neuroth (ankle) on the sideline in street clothes and caught a team-high six passes for 85 yards and rushed for a 6-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, that proved to be the game winner.
Fennimore scored two minutes into the second quarter on a 2-yard run by sophomore Aiden Nutter. Derek Turben’s extra point made it 7–0.
The fifth-seeded Vikings recovered a blocked punt at the Fennimore 35 with less than four minutes to play in the opening half to set up their only touchdown. Mitch Flannery’s 10-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left in the half made it 7–6 and Pec/Argyle (7–3) elected to go for two and the lead. Quarterback Brent Ritschard’s conversion run gave the visitors an 8–7 halftime advantage.
Kenney’s game-winning touchdown, the first rushing TD of his standout career, came on a jet sweep with 4:05 left in the third quarter. Sophomore Will Ahnen added the two-point conversion to account of the final score and the Eagles’ defense kept the Vikings at bay the rest of the night.
Ahnen and junior Derek Kephart led the Fennimore defense with 12 tackles apiece. Sophomore Kellen Kenney added six tackles and an interception. Liam Kenney also had an interception.
Fennimore held Pec/Argyle to just 88 yards rushing on 27 attempts and limited Ritchard to 4 of 18 passing for 76 yards.
“Our key was stopping their option attack and not giving them any big plays,” said Fennimore head coach Boone Tollefson. “We thought if we could make them drive the field without any big gains, that we could eventually get a stop. And that’s what happened all night other than their one touchdown that came after a blocked punt.”
Fennimore advances to face top-seeded and sixth-ranked Markesan.
The Hornets (9–1), who are coached by River Ridge graduate Travis Winkers, defeated Darlington 44–14 in Friday’s opening round. They are champions of the Trailways Large Conference.
Senior quarterback Carson Clark has completed 78 of 131 passes for 1,752 yards, 28 TDs and five interceptions, and also leads Markesan with 822 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 105 attempts.
“Again it’s going to come down to stopping the big plays from happening,” said Tollefson. “They are an offense a lot like us. They spread the ball around and like to throw it. It’s going to be an exciting matchup with a lot of good athletes on the field.
“A big thing for us is being patient on offense and taking those underneath passes when they are available to keep advancing the sticks.”
Neuroth injured his ankle two weeks ago in a non-conference victory over Orfordville/Parkview, but Tollefson expects to have his big-play receiver back in the lineup this week.