COAL CITY — Coming into Friday night's Interstate Eight Conference Large Division game against Plano, the Coal City football team was already playing missing some key components. Starting running back/linebacker Connor Skubic and starting tight end/linebacker Austin Pullara were out with injuries and Max Arias, who had been taking a lot of Skubic's snaps at running back, was only going to be able to play on defense.
Things went from bad to worse on the injury front in the first quarter, when quarterback Payton Hutchings remained on the ground with an ankle injury after executing a quarterback sneak for a first down.
However, the Coalers responded well, as players either switched positions or stepped into unaccustomed roles admirably in a 19-14 win that improved their record to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the I-8 Large.
With Skubic and Arias unavailable to run the ball, the workload fell on Daniel Jezik, and the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder answered the bell to the tune of 36 carries for 121 yards. When Hutchings went down, Gio Ferrara moved from his wide receiver spot to quarterback, and he completed 3 of 7 passes for 27 yards and ran the offense effectively, leading the Coalers to a touchdown on the drive in which he took over. He converted two fourth-down situations into first downs on the march, once on a quarterback sneak on 4th and inches and the other a five-yard completion to Asa Cooper on 4th and 3.
"Daniel Jezik was a workhorse tonight," Coal City coach Dan Hutchings said. "He was just outstanding and I can't say enough about what he did. He may not have had big numbers, like 200 yards or something like that, but he moved the chains for us and helped us keep the ball.
"Gio Ferrara was great, too. We make sure we give all our guys snaps in practice, and that's why. He came in and did a great job of running the offense. And, when he moved to quarterback, Tyson Spencer had to go in at receiver and did a nice job, too."
Defensively, the Coalers also worked well to replace their missing pieces. Christian Knutson started off as the middle linebacker, but moved back to his accustomed spot on the defensive line in the second half, and sophomore Kyle Burch took over at linebacker.
"Our defense was incredible," Hutchings said. "Cole Garcia had a great game. We moved Knutson back to defensive tackle at halftime and put Kyle Burch at middle linebacker. [Assistant] Coach [Jim] Looper made some great adjustments.
"This was like an old-fashioned Interstate Eight game. Just line up and bring your guts, and we really gutted one out. It shows what kind of team mentality these guys have. We are going to have to bring our guts next week, too, because we know that Sandwich is going to bring theirs."