On Saturday afternoon, Newton was behind 10-0 at halftime against Beardstown.
Considering Beardstown’s point production through the regular season – five games with more than 40 points lighting up scoreboards in western Illinois – that score was not discouraging for Newton in the playoff game on the Tigers’ homefield.
The lone touchdown for the Beardstown Tigers came on the opening play from scrimmage when Pascal Guilavogui turned the corner and sprinted down the sideline 65 yards. It was 7-0 in favor of Beardstown from the start, but eventually the Newton defense recovered. Sure, they gave up yards but not another TD that half. The Tigers kicked a 39-yard field before the half – not surprisingly, it made by Guilavogui, who can play three positions as well as kick the ball for the Tigers.
And it helped the Newton offense made some headway at times in the first two quarters. A costly fumble and penalties killed potential offensive drives in the first half.
Still, the team from Jasper County hoped to get back on track for a comeback when they returned to the field.
It was a different story in the second half with the Tigers scoring 22 points on the ground and through the air. Guilavogui would score two more touchdowns for the Tigers. The senior ran for 219 yards in the game and had a 44-yard touchdown reception as the Tigers produced 415 yards in their 32 to 6 victory.
“Pascal is a great back. We probably played against him as good as anybody. He just has an explosiveness. We just couldn’t get anything going offensively. That happens. That has been a problem for us all season,” Newton coach Jason Fulton said after the game.
There was a duel on the field as Guilavogui met Newton linebacker Trenton Hance several times during the game. Hance made the first hit on different stops against the Tiger runner back. Hance would rack up four solo tackles and eight assists during his final game for the Eagles. Payton Birch also put some dents on Tigers with four solo tackles and seven assists. Robby Koebele had three solos and one assist, while Ben Meinhart had two solos and five assists.
Hance also made a key reception and long run late in the game to set up the lone touchdown for Newton. Adam Bridges ran the ball standing up into the end zone from the two-yard line to show the Eagles did not give up. Bridges would compile 68 yards in the game, while Marshall Tarr ran for 35.
That late touchdown reflected the diehard spirit of the 2019 Eagles on the football field. Except for the Olney game, Newton had a fighting chance into the final minutes against all their regular season opponents. Fulton emphasized to his players after the game they could take pride in posting a winning season at 5-4 and making it to the playoffs.
“I’m really proud of our guys. I’m proud of our seniors. They played their hearts out all year. They’re ’re a great group of guys. We’re very fortunate to have been in the playoffs and need to keep at it and get back here next year,” Fulton said.
Fulton said next year he expects to have a solid offensive line back in August and returning talent in the backfield. He wants players to step up at quarterback and on the defensive unit.
He also thanked the many Newton fans who drove three hours across much of Illinois to cheer on his players. They were wrapped up for the cool weather and loud and proud as well.
“We have the greatest fans in the state, hands down,” Fulton said.