TOLEDO — It didn’t take long for Casey-Westfield, the No. 2 team in Class 1A, to take charge of Friday’s Little Illini Conference Eastern Division game — just 36 seconds and two plays into the contest.
That’s when Casey quarterback Nicco Stepina scored on a 42-yard run.
For the rest of the quarter Casey, it was more of the same. The Warriors took two, six and five plays to score on drives of 50, 53, 57 and 71 yards to take a 26-0 heading into the second period.
Casey went on to win 60-8 to improve to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the LIC Eastern Division.
“We looked good offensively,” said Casey coach Jim Sullivan, who was on the same Warrior 1992 team with Cumberland coach Kevin Maynard. “Defensively, we got up field too much and gave them running lanes in the first couple of plays and we corrected that. That is something we will continue to work on.”
It will be the last meeting in the foreseeable future between the two neighbors as Cumberland is to join the Little Okaw Valley Conference next year.
"It is sad that this long-standing rivalry game between two neighboring schools has to end,” Sullivan said. “This game was important to our players, because it makes us playoff eligible and one-step closer to a conference title.”
Maynard said, "We are excited to join a new conference, but it is kind of bittersweet."
He was impressed with Friday night’s opponent.
"We came out and moved the ball against them a little bit," said Maynard. "That was our goal was to keep our offense on the field. We knew they were a good football team that possesses a lot of speed. To be quiet honest, I think we actually underestimated the speed that they had. I thought we had some positive things going in the first quarter, and the fumble kind of set us back."
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In the second quarter, things got strange as Stepina scored on a 43-yard run with 9:55 left. Stepina was ejected from the game for two excessive celebration penalties. He made a big impact in the 14:05 that he played, with six carries for 183 yards and three touchdowns and he completed 5 of 7 passes for 105 yards.
But he’ll get some time off now. The ejection means he will miss next week’s game with Oblong.
“I am very disappointed in our quarterback tonight,” Sullivan said. “He made a bad decision and hurt his team for this week and the next game. That is not what Casey football is all about. He will learn from this mistake and the rest of the team will learn from it and we will move on. Isaac Ekins (sophomore) is doing a great job at the fresh-soph level and did a great job last year as a freshman. He will get his chance and I am sure he will do a great job on Friday night.
“Stepina is a great kid. He just made a big mistake tonight."
In the first half Casey, who also got a 58-yard fumble return by Zack Murphy after the ball was juggled in the air among several players, outgained Cumberland 388-56.
"We kind of mess around with temp every week," said Sullivan. "We try and work on something different each week and this week we worked on tempo. We worked on passing a couple of weeks ago."
Cumberland avoided being shut out when freshman Dillon Howard capped a nine play, 53-yard scoring drive with a 5-yard run with two minutes left.
But Lucas returned the kickoff 88 yards to account for the final score.