By Bryan Bloodworth
LEROY - Coach B.J. Zeleznik isn't surprised that his LeRoy High School football team is playing Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state playoffs.
"I knew we had a team that had the skill level to get to this point," said Zeleznik ahead of today's 1 p.m. matchup with Concord Triopia. "At the beginning of the year, I didnt know if we had a team that had the emotional ability to get to this point. By that mean I mean, would we be able to communicate and bounce back when things weren't going well."
Things have gone well all season for the Panthers, who have an 11-0 record by averaging 49.9 points and 388 yards per game. Defensively, LeRoy is limiting opponents to 18 points and 106 yards.
"It's been an interesting year as far as the growth and development of these kids, especially the seniors," added Zeleznik. "We were just talking the other day about how much these guys have matured in a year's time emotionally as well as physically and that plays a big part in their success."
Triopia enters the game with a 10-1 record. Its lone loss was to Camp Point Central, 33-22, midway through the year in Western Illinois Valley Conferernce action. Camp Point Central is still alive in the Class 2A playoffs.
Concord Triopia relies on a wing-T type offense that features the running of Derrek Schone (888 yards, 19 touchdowns), Matt Parker (700 yards) and Cody Curry (648). The Trojans allow just under five points per game.
LeRoy counters with the high-powered offense led by quarterback Nic Stevens. He directs the running attack of Shane Bruning (1,885 yards, 31 touchdowns), Austin Eddy (832 yards, 17 TDs) and Cory Eastham (679 yards).
"We have to limit turnovers on offense," said Zeleznik. "Our offense is very good. If we can hold onto the ball and get ourselves in managable down and distance situations we could have a very good day on offense.
"Obviously, the line of scrimmage will be key. We have to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and we hae to limit the big plays defensively."
LeRoy and Triopia are not strangers to each other. They met in the 2010 playoffs in the opening round with LeRoy earning a 22-14 victory.
"Some of the kids on both teams were sophomores that year and played in that game," said Tripoia coach Rich Thompson. "We played up there, so at least we'll be familiar with the surroundings."
The winner of Saturday's game advances to the semifinals to meet Maroa-Forsyth or Carrollton.
Bryan Bloodworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org