Unity dampens Pontiac homecoming spirit

Tolono (Unity) put a damper on the Homecoming Week activities Friday night with a 48-0 thrashing of Pontiac at Williamson Field.

It was not a sight as the Rockets blew past the Indians in a hurry, scoring early and often in setting up the running clock to start the second half. It began with a four-play drive that covered 65 yards and took all of 35 seconds off the clock. It ended with a pick-6 that capped the scoring.

In between, there were turnovers, misplays and injuries that took their toll on the Tribe.

Pontiac came into this Illini Prairie Conference contest shorthanded. Top running back DeVonte Chambers hasn't played since the win at Rantoul a couple weeks ago, and his backup, Hunter Melvin, sustained a season-ending injury the following week.

There have been injuries to members of the line, and, on top of things, head coach John Johnson missed the first two quarters due to a suspension for, as he said afterward, “a broken a rule.”

Meanwhile Tolono was coming in with a huge chip on its shoulder as the Rockets try to remain alive in the conference title race. Things were not looking pretty for the home team.

Unity quarterback Cale Rawdin hit Will Cowan on a slant and Cowan took it to the house for a 37-yard touchdown on the Rockets' opening drive. The conversion kick made it 7-0 just 38 seconds into the game.

The Indians gave the ball right back when Nick Crane threw the first of three interceptions on the night on Pontiac's first offensive play from scrimmage.

Tolono took a little more time to score, needing 1:25 to go 48 yards on five plays to make it 14-0/ Matt Brown did the honors with a 24-yard shot through the middle.

The Rockets were much better prepared for this game than Pontiac. The offensive game plan was a combination of running, throwing and a little trickery. That last part came in after Unity took over at its own 10 after a nice Pontiac punt.

The trickery was on the first play when Rawdin tossed a pass to Dalton O'Neill, who pitched it back to Brown who scampered 30 yards for a 34-yard gain. To add insult, PTHS was called for a face-mask penalty at the end of the play, tacking on 15 more yards.

This put the ball at the Tribe's 41, where Rawdin connected with Jay Saunders for what became a 41-yard score.

Crane was picked off on the first play when the Indians got the ball back. Unity drove 47 yards for its fourth TD. This time it was Garrett Richardson doing the honors from three yards.

The Rawdin-to-Cowan connection chalked up a TD with 4:15 to go in the first quarter, making it 34-0. Rawdin hit Gavin Moore with 36 seconds left in the opening lap to make it 41-0.

Mike Hart picked off Crane on the third play of the second half and returned it for a touchdown. The conversion made it 48-0. where it remained the rest of the way.

The Indians had just one possession in the first half in Unity territory, and it ended with a fumble by Crane that Tolono recovered as time ran out on the half.

PTHS started a drive in Unity territory in the third quarter only to get snuffed out on an interception of a Santi Pina pass.

The Indians did put together one drive, which came late. Starting at its own seven yard line, PTHS got a run from Amar'e Curtiss for a first down, which was only the second one of the game without help of a penalty. The third first down came moments later when Crane connected with Adam Ahrends for a 53-yard hookup that set the Tribe up at the Rockets' 24.

Crane and Ahrends connected again for 8 yards and it looked like Pontiac was going to avoid a second straight shutout. But two sacks and incomplete pass ended the threat.

Ahrends was a bright spot for the Indians (1-5) with his three catches for 76 yards and 125 yards on kick returns. His longest was a 50-yarder.

Once again, injuries did not help the Pontiac cause. Alex Valenzuela had 14 yards on three carries, but got hurt on his final tote and did not play the rest of the game. Curtiss led the rushing attack with 22 yards. PTHS rushed for a net 13 yards.

Crane was 4 of 12 passing for 85 yards and two interceptions. Pina was 1 of 3 for 13 yards and a pick.

“They took it too us early, running the ball and passing the ball,” Johnson said. “We seemed to play a little bit slow and they played faster than us.”

Tolono (5-1) reached playoff qualification with the win. The Rockets collected 338 yards of offense — 166 on the ground and 172 through the air.

Pontiac will travel to St. Joseph-Ogden next week.

This article originally appeared on Pontiac Daily Leader: Pontiac Indians Tolono Unity Rockets high school football