COAL CITY — His parents might have to excuse Daniel Jezik if he wanted to sleep in Saturday morning.
That is because Jezik was pressed into duty as the featured running back for Coal City on Friday night in a 19-14 win over Plano. Jezik's number was called often, 36 times, in fact. He gained 121 yards on those 36 carries, and also played the entire game on defense, contributing with five solo tackles.
"Daniel Jezik, what a job he did tonight," Coal City coach Dan Hutchings said of the 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior. "He didn't have the big numbers, like 200 yards, but he moved the chains for us."
Jezik's workload was made necessary in the first half after starting quarterback Payton Hutchings was injured on a quarterback sneak in the first quarter. Jezik finished the first half with 20 rushing attempts.
Gio Ferrara played the rest of the first half at quarterback for the Coalers (4-1, 2-0), and guided them on a touchdown drive after Hutchings left. He completed 3 of 7 passes for 27 yards.
The Coalers drove 78 yards on their first scoring drive, mostly with Jezik running between the tackles. They converted three fourth downs on the march, one on a five-yard pass from Ferrara to Asa Cooper. Two plays later, Cooper swept around the left end for an 11-yard touchdown and Christian Knutson's kick gave Coal City a 7-0 lead.
Plano mounted a drive late in the first half, and quarterback Brunson Schmidt scored on a quarterback sneak with :58 to go until halftime. The kick fell short, and Coal City took a 7-6 lead into halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, Coal City's Brady Crawford intercepted a Plano screen pass and raced 27 yards into the end zone to give the Coalers a 13-6 lead.
"They had run that screen pass a few times earlier," Crawford said. "I got a good read on it and was able to intercept it. My eyes were pretty wide when I looked and saw all that green in front of me. I don't think I have ever run so fast.
"Our entire defense was awesome tonight."
Coal City went ahead, 19-6, later in the third, when Cooper ran in from 11 yards again.
"We saw that their corner was crashing hard," Hutchings said. "We had a feeling that our end-arounds would work. We have been trying to get the ball to Asa in some space because he is so fast. We were able to do that tonight."
Meanwhile, the Coaler defense stifled a Plano offense that had gained more than 400 yards on the ground the previous week. The Reapers were able to score on a five-yard pass from Schmidt to Keegan Cullison in the fourth quarter, and a conversion run by Demetri Coker brought the score to 19-14.
The Coaler defense held firm for two more stops after that, and Coal City walked away with the win.
"That was one of those 'bring your guts' games," Hutchings said. "All of our kids did. We really gutted this one out. Our kids always play hard, but I couldn't be prouder of everyone tonight. Gio Ferrara did a great job stepping up and playing quarterback when we needed him.
"Our defense was outstanding. Brady Crawford got the touchdown and was in on a lot of other plays. The defense has been incredible all year."