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|Green Machine (13-0)
Metamora Redbirds (12-1)
G - Strader 1 yard run (PAT Failed) (6-0)
M - Neff 72 yard fumble return (PAT Failed) (6-6)
M - Whittington 4 yard pass from Bartel (2PT Failed) (6-12)
G - Strader 36 yard run (PAT Failed) (12-12)
G - Strader 2 yard run (Peterson 2PT) (20-12)
|3A State Championship - November 26, 1976 - ISU - Hancock Stadium
|Article From The Geneseo Republic
Leafs Are 4A Football Champions Of Illinois!
Team Wins Dream Game For Geneseo, Coach, and Fans!
Who will ever forget that moment.....the victory bell ringing in the background, Ed Ryan and Wayne Strader on the stand, holding
the trophy aloft while the rest of the tea, huddled under a cloud of mist, celebrated below them, while the announced told the
world......The Class 3A State Champions....Geneseo! Townspeople streamed onto the field and engulfed the players; players
pushed through the crush to the north end to ring the bell, little kids ran through the rain and slid across the slick phony grass on
the bellies, fans at the top of the stadium pushed down and toward the front, to be as close as they could be to the champions.
It was raining? Who cared? Geneseo beat Metamora 20-12 last Friday night in Hancock Stadium in Normal, winning the state
championship! The game, played in a driving rain, was the "dream" game of the 1976 playoffs, matching teams from football rich
traditions. Despite horrible weather, the Illinois High School Association estimated 10,000 persons watched the game in person,
making it the largest live audience ever to see a Geneseo game. No less than 2,900 of the persons were from Geneseo, and
there may have been more. Untold thousands more saw it on WGN TV Chicago, which goes into several states via cable.
Those television fans and those at the game were treated to a dazzling championship display by Geneseo fullback Wayne
Strader, who rushed for three Leaf touchdowns and ran for 188 yards on 33 carries, despite being the man Metamora knew it
had to stop. The fans saw a great display by Geneseo's offensive and defensive lines and the TV people seemed intent on
playing and replaying isolated shots of the mighty Leaf linemen. The fans also saw a champion play like a champion. Mighty
Metamora didn't go down easily. And when the Redbirds did fall, for the first time in 30 games, for the first time since 1974, they
made no excuses.
Pass the heart pills, please! It was a coronary colossal. The weather had a great deal to do with it. Neither team was able to
manage a respectable punting game. Metamora's punting game broke down late, then when the Redbirds were in the hole,
Geneseo took advantage, and won the game. And what a game it was! It was 36 degrees when the contest started. It got
colder.....it was snowing, back in Geneseo as we would learn later. The wind in the stadium was shooting in from the north at 15
to 20 miles an hour when the game started. Despite the conditions, the play was excellent.
Emotions surged like angry seas. At first, it looked like Geneseo might roll. The Leafs scored after Dennis Brooks blocked a
punt, then Wayne Strader ran a punt back 68 yards, putting Geneseo on the doorstep. But the Leafs didn't score and Metamora
took a recovered fumble 72 yards to tie the game. Then the Leafs lost Strader for the entire second quarter, and Metamora went
ahead. Things looked bleak, but the fans were more down than the Leafs. After all, the Leafs had done the work to get into this
game and they weren't about to call a slip a fall. Strader came back and so did Geneseo. The Leafs tied it after a shaky second
half start. Then the teams battled and Geneseo won. Geneseo dominated the statistics. Only the scoreboard counts though and
in the end, Geneseo had done all the dominating it needed to do.
"This team did an awful lot for the Geneseo tradition," said Coach Bob Reade. "This team owed a lot to people who played
before, and they paid those teams back. Former players from those teams now can say, 'these guys won it, so we would have
won it too if we'd had the chance.' Had we kept losing in the playoffs, you wouldn't know." Reade said Geneseo's affiliation with
the Fellowship of Christian Athletes "really put it together for us early this year." Geneseo sent 20 athletes, most of them football
players to an FCA camp in Tulsa, Oklahoma this past summer. "It was a close group and they played together," said Reade.
Reade said Metamora was an excellent team and called it "our hardest game of the year." He said weather conditions hurt both
teams but agreed with Redbird Coach John Helmick that the poor weather may have hurt Metamora more because of the
Redbirds' wide open style of offense, which includes the passing of quarterback Scott Bartel. Helmick praise Strader and said "I
don't know if we could have stopped him on a dry field. He's excellent. He could play for us."
The score was tied 12-12 when Vic Friederich, the 6'3" 220 pound end tackle who did plenty in this game went back to punt at
his own 10 yard line with 2:28 left in the game. The center snap was poor and Friedrich couldn't gain control and Brian
Westemeyer fell on the football for Geneseo at the Metamora eight yard line. Now everyone, including the Metamora defense
knew what was coming. It was Strader running behind Westemeyer. Strader went off left tackle for three yards, then off the right
side, behind Ed Ryan, Jack Gray, and Carl White and Frank Gardner, to the two. Then over the left side for the touchdown. Jon
Peterson faked inside to Strader and trotted around the left side for a two point conversion. It was 20-12 Geneseo, with 1:05 left
in the game.
Metamora got a 13 yard kickoff return, to its own 43. Bartel threw over the middle for Mark Whittington, a diving Peterson
knocked the ball down. Peterson was up a halfback now with Strader playing free safety. Bartel passed to Doug Neff for 11
yards but offsetting penalties nullified the play which ate eight valueble seconds. Bartel went back again and Brooks threw him
for a 13 yard loss. Metamora went with Tom Miller on a draw play, but Westemeyer stopped the Redbird halfback for a two yard
loss. Now it was fourth and 24. Bartel and Metamora went down under Brooks back at the 23. Bartel fumbled and Westemeyer
recovered....and with only 11 seconds to go, Geneseo had won the state crown!
Geneseo fumbled six times in this game and lost the ball five times. Metamora fumbled five times and lost it all five times. Credit
Leaf quarterback Jon Peterson with another superb job. He ran the Leaf offense with that quick belly series which must be
operated with crisp precision without fumbling. Geneseo lost the ball via fumble on its first possession then Brooks blocked
Friedrich's first punt attempt and returned the ball eight yards. Geneseo clipped on the play, and the Leafs started at the
Metamora 26. Shawn Hart ran for five yards then the Leafs showed Strader to Metamora for the first of 33 times. Strader scored
on his fifth carry, a one yard smash over right tackle. Boyles' kick was no good and the Leaf led 6-0 with 6:38 left in the first
Jeff Selburg, the Metamora fullback burst 29 yards on Metamora's first play after the Leaf score. Miller would break for 40 yards
but those two plays gained 69 of Metamora's 109 yard rushing total. Those two players were the only Redbirds who gained
ground by rushing. Geneseo's pass rush was established on this drive, and it was a ferocious rush, the Bartel had seen all year
according to Helmick. Bartel was sacked by Chris Ford and the Redbirds looked at fourth and 20 from the Redbird 38. Friedrich
punted to Strader, standing at the Leaf 18.
Wayne headed for the west sideline, cut past one defender, and got behind a great wall the Leafs set up. He ran down the
sideline to midfield, cut right at the Metamora 40, and headed for the right corner of the end zone. He tried to cut left to get past
Friedrich, the punter but couldn't outrun him. Friedrich tackled Strader at the Metamora 14 and Geneseo appeared to be in
tremendous shape. From the Redbird nine, Hart slammed inside for two yards but Geneseo was set back to the 23 for holding.
Strader burst to the 17 and it was fourth and 16.
Strader rolled right, looking to pass. Mike Wire was open and then he was covered, and Strader at the sideline tucked the ball
away and headed back towards the middle. Near the hash mark, he raided his arm again as if to throw. He was hit, the ball
popping loose. Metamora's Doug Neff grabbed the ball in the air and ran 72 yards for a touchdown, the first time a fumble had
been returned for a score in a title game. The conversion kick was low. Metamora had tied it 6-6 with 1:01 left in the first quarter.
Geneseo hadn't run a fullback pass play all season. "We though it would score the first time we ran it," cracked Reade later,
"And it did."
On Geneseo's second play of its next drive, Strader was hit hard, helmet to breastbone and Strader fumbled, Friedrich
recovering at the Leaf 28. All eyes were riveted on a shaken Strader as he was led from the field. Strader was taken to the
locker room, where he was given a show and put under warm blankets. He had been tense before the game, and was cold after
reaching the field. The shot in the chest knocked the wind from him, then he REALLY got cold, apparently having circulatory and
respiratory problems of some kind. The Leafs were still after Bartel though and Metamora was forced to kick. Geneseo with
Greg Himmelman in for Strader, blocked all the harder up front but couldn't sustain a long drive.
Jeff Nauman blocked Larry Boyles' punt and Nauman recovered at the Leaf nine-yard line. The play started back out at the 41.
Fullback Selburg ran to the six, then Selburg burst to the four. Bartel then passed four yards to Mark Whittington for the
touchdown on a well executed play which saw the Redbird wingback grab the soft pass into the right side of the endzone. On
the conversion attempt, the ball squirted through the holder's hands, and Bartel picked up the ball and rolled left. Two receivers
were open but he hurried his pass a bit and threw incomplete between them. Metamora 12 Geneseo 6 with 4:49 left in the first
Geneseo pounded inside now with Himmelman, Shawn Hart, and Dave Anderson.....almost breaking Anderson twice. Penalties
slowed Geneseo twice on this drive. The Leafs moved to Metamora's 28 and Peterson overthrew Frank Gardner near the goal
line. On fourth and seven, Dan Seckler....who made 18 tackles from his linebacking spot, sack Peterson for a seven yard loss.
Neither club threatened again before the half.
A 40 yard burst by Miller on second down put Geneseo in trouble after the second half kickoff. He'd gone around the right end
and Metamora moved to the Leaf five yard line. One of Metamora's lineman wasn't wearing a mouthpiece. A Leaf spotted it and
waited until the lineman was set before informing the official. The flag went down and the Redbirds went back out to the 10.
Chris Ford then broke through and dropped Whittington for a six yard loss. Selburg ran right on a quick pitch but was creamed
by Gardner after a one yard gain. Bartel passed for Christy but Peterson broke it up and it was fourth down from the 15. Paul
Seppelt attempted a 31 yard field goal but the kick was short and to the left. Geneseo had the ball back after a great defensive
Geneseo really got heavy now, marching 80 yards in eight plays to tie the game. Strader carried seven times for 72 yards on this
drive. The big fullback had led Geneseo back onto the field for the second half. He wore a black sweat suit top under his jersey,
the same outfit worn by wrestlers trying to lose weight. The object was to retain as much of his body heat as possible.
On second and eight, Strader broke between left guard and left tackle, got outside, and ran 36 yards for a Geneseo touchdown.
The kick failed but it was 12-12 with 5:15 left in the third quarter. "We knew they were quick and a super ball club," said Helmick.
"It was just a matter of when Strader was going to break one. When he went off tackle, we knew he was gone."
Metamora went to the air, and who will forget the pinpoint pass through the rain to Whittington who caught the 15 yard dart
thrown through two defenders; or Nauman's leaping one-handed circus catch in the rain, good for a seven yard gain to the
Geneseo 15? And who will forget Shawn Hart's play on the next Redbird snap.......the senior Leaf linebacker threw Whittington
for a 12 yard loss. Bartel tried a screen to Whittington but threw in a hurry again and the all fell incomplete. Bartel passed to
Whittington on fourth down, short of first down yardage. The ball was fumbled with Boyles recovering for Geneseo on the Leaf
Geneseo could not make a first down and with fourth and two from the 21, the Leafs were faced with punting into the rain and
wind. Reade elected to go with a fake punt with a direct snap to blocker Strader. The left side.....or the right side of Metamora's
defense was vacant of defenders. That's where Strader would have gone, but didn't. Because the ball came off the wet phony
grass as through it had been shot from a cannon. It hit Strader in the chest and Metamora's Tim Bernitt recovered on the Leaf
17. The Leafs were in trouble now. Remember, it's still 12-12 and getting late.
Selburg, Metamora's bread and butter 176 pound fast fullback burst for seven yards, then two, then three, and then fall was on
the Leaf five. Then Selburg ran into the endzone........but left the ball back at the one foot line. He'd dropped it at the two, it
rolled toward the goal and Greg Himmelman recovered for Geneseo before it went into the end zone. Whew!!
Now the entire Geneseo team was lined up in the end zone with only the hands of center Ed Ryan protruding. More trouble. But
now, most of Metamora jumped offside and Geneseo got out to the six. It might have been that Geneseo's version of comedians
Hudson and Landry pulled one off on the Redbirds but don't expect Peterson and Strader to say much about it.
Now Geneseo came downfield a snortin', with Strader dragging bodies on a 26 yard carry to the Leaf 42. Metamora needed to
breathe, so it called time. It didn't help. With an occasional burst by Ken Garvin thrown in to help keep the defense honest, the
Leaf offense kept moving and Strader burst around left end for 31 yards. The drive finally went 89 yards and ate up six minutes
but Strader fumbled the ball away at the 10.
Miller carried for 11 yards and Strader limped from the field. He returned shortly and it was five plays later when the bad snap
went back to Friedrich, setting up the winning touchdown for Geneseo.
Westemeyer and Ryan accompanied Reade to the interview area after the game much to the chagrin of two Chicago writers
who whined and cried because they couldn't talk to Strader, a real, live, fullback. He was trying to get warm in the shower, which
was advisable considering his condition at the half.
Westemeyer said he didn't think the footing was too bad; Reade said it was slippery though for the backs, noting that Hart had
trouble cutting and as a result couldn't hit the hole as quickly as he normally would. The conditions took away some of
Metamora's passing attack, perhaps but it also canned the Geneseo option.
The two Leaf seniors said they weren't shaken when Strader went out. "We all know Wayne is a real good back," said Ryan.
"But we have confidence in all our players."
I hope everybody enjoyed the Green Machine Classic Series! There were countless other games I would have loved to include
and likely will in the future!