FISHER — In Saturday's Illinois High School Association Class 1A football playoff game at Kellar Field, Fisher showed its speed scoring on its first four possessions en route to a convincing 48-15 win over Cumberland.
"Fisher is a very good football team," said Cumberland coach Lucas Watkins. "They are very well-coached and disciplined. What they do, they do very well. From an offensive standpoint, they were able to do whatever they wanted to. They run their system very well. They get you in a catch-22 because they are just going to read certain guys, and wherever you are at, they are going to run something different based on where you are aligned."
Fisher received the opening kickoff and started at its own 28. Tyler Wilson picked up his own fumble and gained 10 yards for a first down, and Drew Purvis gained 14 on the next play. After three running plays gained 11 yards, quarterback Will Delaney scampered 33 yards for a first and goal at the two. Tyler Wilson scored on the next play. The Bunnies executed a fake extra point as Cory Hicks ran in for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
"That was really big for our kids and our mentality," said Fisher coach Jake Palmer. "We are a very passionate team that thrives on our effort and passion for the game. Getting that first score I thought got our kids excited early."
Cumberland did pick up a first down on the ensuing possession on a 10-yard pass from Gabe Hatfill to Michael Flier. However, the Bunnies held on a fourth and 4 from the Fisher 26 as a pass gained no yards.
Fisher put together its longest scoring drive in terms of plays going 74 yards in 12 plays with the big play being a 22-yard run by Delaney. Wilson scored for a 14-0 advantage.
Wilson, who finished with 21 carries for 202 yards and four touchdowns scored on a 55-yard run. Andrew Ferguson booted the extra point for a 21-0 Bunny lead with 10 minutes left in the half.
After Cumberland failed on a fourth and 12 from the Fisher 35, Wilson ran down the sidelines next to his teammates on a 65-yard jaunt. The extra point failed, but the Bunnies led 27-0.
Cumberland erased the goose egg with a seven-play, 61-yard scoring drive which included a 17-yard pass from Hatfill to Flier and a 21-yard pass to Brice LaBaume. Connor Butler caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Hatfill, and Kade Warner booted the extra point making it 27-7.
It looked like the Pirates might turn the corner after the defense forced Fisher to go three-and-out, but after picking up one first down and three incomplete passes, they fell a yard short of the first down on the fourth and 15 (after a false-start penalty).
Fisher closed the half scoring 14 points in the final 23.9 seconds of the half to erase any doubt who was going to win the game. Delaney, who had 10 carries for 108 yards, scored on a 46-yard run with 23.9 seconds left. Ferguson made the extra point for a 34-7 lead.
"Apparently my special teams coach, my dad Jeff Palmer, told our guys, 'We are going to kick it in the air, and let's sprint down and maybe we can recover it,'" he said. "We kicked it deep and they kind of fumbled it around and we recovered."
Cumberland couldn't handle the deep kickoff, and Andrew Koslowski recovered at the Pirates 14. On the third play, Delaney hit Tyler Martin over the middle for a nine-yard touchdown pass, and the extra point made it 41-7 at the break.
Fisher scored on its first possession of the second half when Martin caught a 20-yard pass and ran the rest of the 39 yards untouched for the 59-yard touchdown pass from Delaney. Ferguson's extra point was good and the running clock began with a 48-7 lead.
The Bunnies finished with 45 carries for 371 yards and five touchdowns and for the game ran 50 plays totaling 434 yards.
"We practiced more of a triple option because that is what we saw on film," said Watkins. "We had our backers a little wide. They ran that midline and our backers have to come in. We worked on reading keys all week about reading the end man on the line of scrimmage, and we didn't do a very good job of executing what we did in practice."
Cumberland only had one drive that ended in its own territory, but had two passes intercepted (Noah Taylor and Tyrese Martin) and three drives ended between the Bunnies 35 and 44. Hatfill was 14-of-25 for 138 yards and a touchdown. Rayce Zike threw a 20-yard touchdown to Ross Hemmen for the final touchdown of the game.
"I thought defensively, they had us scouted very, very well," said Watkins. "We couldn't get the run game going (22 carries for 70 yards with half of it on the final drive of the game). Nothing was easy for us. I thought they were very sound in their assignments and just had speed too. I tip my hat to them. They were very aggressive."
It was the first Fisher home playoff game since 2008 and the Bunnies' third-ever playoff win (the other two were in 2005).
Fisher, 8-2, is to travel to Argenta-Oreana Saturday for the second round, while Cumberland closes its third straight playoff season at 7-3.
The 12 Cumberland seniors finished with three LOVC Southeast Division titles, three straight playoff appearances, including a win last year and have 26 wins, the most out of any four years in the program's history.
"They have been instrumental in what we are doing here," said Watkins. "They were my first class when they were freshmen and it is going to be weird to see them gone. I appreciate everything they have done and they lead by example. They are just a good class of seniors and they will be missed."