ARCOLA — Arcola's offense has been on fire since its loss to Cumberland, but will face a tough test in the second round of the IHSA Class 1A playoffs against Greenfield-Northwestern.
The Tigers defense is allowing just 13.7 points.
"They can mix up there fronts a little bit between a three-man and a four-man front," Arcola football coach Nick Lindsey said. "Their backers play fast and they get downhill. They have obviously got some good skill players out on the edge too."
Arcola will play Greenfield for the third time with the other two times being in the 1995 semifinals (Arcola won 26-16) and the 2007 quarterfinals (Arcola won 35-14). The IHSA Class 1A second-round playoff game will start at 2 p.m. and the winner will play the victor of Fisher at Central A&M.
While the Tigers defense allows less than Arcola's 17.6 points per game, the discrepancy is much bigger on offense where the Purple Riders score 44.6 per game compared to Greenfield's 29.
"They are phenomenal," said Greenfield coach Joe Pembrook, the quarterback on the 1995 team. "They have so many weapons and explosiveness. They can and will attack from all angles and levels. Slowing them down seems impossible."
Austin Hopkins had 162 carries for 1,329 yards and 18 touchdowns to lead the Purple Riders in the battle of two 8-2 teams. Hopkins has 3,717 yards in his career and is just 32 yards behind Wyatt Fishel, who is in second place all-time.
Quarterback Beau Jones is 74-of-123 for 1,271 yards and a single-season school record of 25 touchdowns with six interceptions. He is currently third in single-season yardage behind Clayton Strader and Mark Klinger.
Another single-season record fell as Diego Perez has the record for most receiving yardage with 696, breaking the previous mark held by Zac Ozee.
"They will be a good test for us offensively," Lindsey said. "I think controlling the ball and not making mistakes is what the game will come down to. So far, this year, we have done a good job of that and we have to make sure we continue to."
Greenfield, a team that was the Class 2A runner-up in 1991, has not been to the second round of the playoffs since 2009 and has not won a second-round game since 2007. The Tigers are 31-25 in the playoffs and this is their 26th appearance.
Arcola is currently 57-25 in the playoffs and this is the Riders' 30th appearance, including six straight appearances, tying the 1988-1993 teams for the most consecutive appearance. The Purple Riders have won the state four times (1978, '85, '88, 2015).
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"Arcola is a storied program with outstanding tradition that we respect greatly," Pembrook said. "It seems as though Arcola has always set the standard for great football in that part of the state."
Greenfield is a young, but experienced team with eight seniors, nine juniors, 11 sophomores and eight freshmen on the roster.
The quarterback, Jacob Lansaw, is a 5-10, 171-pound junior that has averaged 118.3 yards passing a game, completing 65 percent of his passes. The top three running backs are Denver Davenports, a 5-8, 146-pound junior, Colin Grummell, a 5-8, 155-pound senior, and Drake Stuart, a 5-10, 183-pound sophomore. Brady Pembrook, the coach's son, and Blake Woelfel have 26 and 23 catches, respectively.
"They put you in a tough spot sometimes defensively," Lindsey said. "The kids have really bought into what we are doing. As a coach, you try and take all of that information and simplify it for your kids so that they can play fast and are not overthinking things."
As for the Tiger running backs, Lindsey said, "The fullback is a tough, physical runner and they have a couple of shifty and quicker type backs. Our defense has to rely on getting to the ball and rallying and wrapping everybody up and making the tackle when they need to."
The varsity Arcola players have not played a full football game since Sept. 27 in a 28-26 loss to Cumberland. Since then the Purple Riders have won five straight games by an average score of 52-17 and have not scored less than 42.
"The fact the varsity has not played a full game since week six is a little concerning," said Lindsey. "But I think we would rather be rested and healthy at this time of year than tired and not healthy. Our kids will rise when they need to."
Arcola advanced with a 42-19 win over Tri-County, while the Tigers nipped Brown County 22-21.
As far as being at home instead of making the two and a half-hour drive Lindsey said, "It is always nice to be home and comfortable and playing in front of our home fans. We have a great home crowd and a great home environment, but when the ball gets kicked off it is still a 100-yard field. It is good not to make that trek there and have to get the kids up earlier than they are used to, though."
The Purple Riders were in the second round last year and last won a second-round game in 2015.
"We hope to represent our school and community well," said Pembrook. "We are going to have to play a tremendous game in every faced and get a few breaks to go our way to be able to compete Saturday."