The Herrin Tigers did exactly what they had to do Friday night on the road. They beat the Harrisburg Bulldogs 41-7 despite a steady rain to secure a share of the Ohio Divison championship and qualify for the Class 4A state playoffs by notching their sixth win.
Less than a minute into the game, Herrin junior quarterback Chance Karnes connected with Tate Johnson on an 18-yard touchdown pass. The point-after-kick by Jake Baumgarte was good for a 7-0 lead. The score was set up by a 24-yard run by senior halfback Jackson Yates.
Yates then scored a touchdown of his own after Herrin made a stop defensively against the Bulldogs. He raced 63 yards off an option pitch left. The Tigers led 14-0 with 5:17 to go in the first period..
Harrisburg responded with a score - an eight-yard run by Jordan Dalton at the 1:55 mark of the period. The PAT was good, trimming the deficit to seven at 14-7.
The Tigers answered with a 30-yard pass play from Karnes to fullback Jeff Rock on the first play of the second quarter. Herrin added a fourth score with 7:29 to play in the half on a 26-yard run by Yates. The Tigers led 27-7 at the break.
Rock was the only player to score in the second half. The senior reached the end zone twice for the Tigers - once on a three-yard run with 3:02 to play in the third period and another time on a 31-yard run with 2:41 left in the game. He also had a 70-yard run that set up his three-yard dive.
Rock finished with 103 yards on eight carries to go along with his three TDs.
"Honestly, I didn't expect to do what I did tonight," Rock said. "The linemen did their job and I was able to do mine. I do what I can to get Tate and Jackson the yards they get. I'm more of a power back. I try to get the yards we need at crucial moments."
Rock acknowledged that he is quick off the snap of the ball even if he isn't one of the fastest runners on the team. The senior added that qualifying for the playoffs is special.
"But we first have to get ready for Breese Central Friday night," he said. "It's Senior Night and we have to come ready to play."
Harrisburg head coach Gabe Angelly said Rock was impressive against his ballclub.
"We worked hard to try and shut down Herrin's top two runners (Yates and Tate Johnson), but couldn't stop their fullback (Rock). Kudos to him. He stepped up and had a big game," Angelly said .
Yates finished with 157 yards on 16 carries, but only had one breakaway. Johnson was held to 21 yards rushing on seven carries.
Karnes tacked on 21 yards on 11 carries. He also completed 3-of-7 passes for 62 yards.
"I thought defensively we played pretty well at times. I was proud of our kids' effort tonight," Angelly said. "Herrin's a good team. They just have a few more weapons than we do."
Tigers head coach Jason Karnes was pleased with his team's performance.
"It's big for our program when you get that sixth win to qualify for the playoffs and get a share of the conference title with a good Murphysboro and West Frankfort ballclub," he said.
Karnes also praised the defensive effort, which he said was much improved against the Bulldogs.
"From here on out, you have to play good defense to win. You have to make stops and that's what we got tonight," Karnes said.
Harrisburg was led offensively by Dalton's 49 yards on six carries. He had to leave the game early due to concussion protocol. Easton Wallace rushed for 40 yards on 13 carries, caught three passes for 46 yards and had a touchdown called back on a penalty.
The Bulldogs, who finished 2-3 in the league and are 2-6 overall, host Carbondale Friday. The Tigers, 4-1 in the conference and 6-2 overall, will host Breese Central.