Musketeers Hold Off Hornets, Advance In Playoffs


Brian Magee, Special Contributor

The Red Bud Musketeers fought off the Nashville Hornets in the first round of the IHSA prep football playoffs at home in Red Bud last Saturday afternoon. The weather was near perfect for the 1:00 contest featuring two well-matched teams both with a 7-2 season record. The game began with the Hornets receiving the opening kickoff and setting up their offense at their own 35. The Hornets came out with a no-huddle offense which is a bit unusual for a high school team. Red Bud quickly saw for themselves how well Nashville executed their plays, marching downfield in their first possession, through a balanced passing and running assault. The Musketeer defensive backfield initially seemed to have some difficulty covering the Nashville receivers as the Hornets moved down the field and scored a touchdown on a 20-yard run and added the PAT to take an early 7-0 lead.

The Musketeers answered with an impressive drive of their own led by quarterback Thomas Friess and superior blocking by the Red Bud offensive line. Runs by Nick Gantner and Lucas Schwartzkopf moved the ball into Nashville territory where Friess connected with wide receiver Evan Dressel for a 35-yard touchdown strike for the Musketeer’s first score. Lane Brockmeyer split the uprights to tie the game at 7-7.

The Hornets received the Musketeer kick-off and went back to work, putting together a drive that moved the ball inside the Red Bud 10-yard line. On third and goal, the Hornet quarterback found a receiver in the end-zone for a 5-yard TD pass, making the score 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Things settled down a bit in the second quarter as both teams flexed their defensive muscle and played to a scoreless tie, that is until the Musketeers stopped the Hornets at the Red Bud 24 and took over on downs. With just over two minutes to play in the half, Friess hit receiver Chase Lucht in stride, running a route near the left hash marks that turned into a 76-yard touchdown pass play, tying the game at 14-14. Nashville got the ball back on the kickoff following the Musketeer touchdown but turned the ball over when defensive back Owen Liefer intercepted a Hornet’s pass, giving Red Bud the ball near mid-field. The Musketeer offense went back to work with under a minute to play in the half and shocked the Hornets with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Friess to Dressel to take the lead. On the PAT attempt, Nashville was called for encroachment, moving the ball inside the two-yard line when Red Bud decided to go for the two-point conversion. The run failed but the Boys took their 20-14 lead into the half.

The second half began with the  Hornets kicking to the Musketeers but Red Bud was unable to sustain a drive and was forced to punt. Nashville took over and put together a drive that culminated in a 29-yard touchdown pass to take back the lead 21-20. The Hornet defense continued to play well, holding the Musketeers scoreless during the third quarter.

With the razor-thin one-point lead, Nashville looked to control the clock and put up another score to secure the win. As they moved down the field and faced a third and long, the Hornets’ quarterback spotted a receiver near their bench that would secure a first down and keep their drive alive. What he didn’t see was Red Bud defensive back Owen Liefer, who stepped in front of the receiver and made his second interception of the game. It was the spark Red Bud needed. The Musketeer’s offense capitalized on the turn-over, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a five-yard run by Gantner. Devin Hall added two points on the conversion play to make the score 28-21 in the fourth quarter. With Nashville on the ropes and time running out, the Hornets were forced to pass but the Red Bud defense was up to the challenge. Ty Carter, Jerrel Nesbit, and Trace Wegner each recorded key sacks, and Sam Easter came up with an interception to stop drives by Nashville. Liefer was instrumental in the success, knocking down two more passes during the fourth quarter. It came down to the final drive for Nashville. Pressured by the Musketeers’ pass rush, the Hornets’ quarterback threw a pass down the middle of the field that was picked off by middle linebacker Devin Hall who returned it 22 yards for the touchdown, sealing the Musketeers’ win 34-21. It was a near-perfect game for Red Bud, with the exception of a couple of penalties. 

The momentum and the win carry the Musketeers to the next round of the playoffs against the Crusaders of Altoff  Saturday. The Crusaders finished the season at 5-4 but played larger schools in Class 3. Altoff is known for its solid football program and will be well-prepared for the Musketeers. That is not to imply that this is a done deal. The Musketeers will rely on their strong defense, explosive offense, and never quit mentality. They also need to maintain a high level of execution and discipline to avoid penalties. Takeaways by the Musketeer defense will also be a factor in a Red Bud win. Don’t miss the action. Make the short trip to Belleville and support your team. Kick-off is at 1:00.  

Jessie Liefer