DECATUR — For the first time in the history of the Decatur Public Schools, a team has qualified for the postseason three years in a row.
MacArthur's 54-0 win over Eisenhower on Friday evening gave the Generals five wins, making them playoff eligible for the third consecutive season. In a closed conference, five wins should get the Generals (5-3) into the postseason regardless of the outcome of next week's season finale against Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin.
"As a program to see these guys to work hard and continue what the last two classes ahead of them did," MacArthur coach Derek Spates said. "That's the thing we stress to them, 'You guys have to make your own way. You can't live on what the team with the Brummetts (Amir and Armon) and Ray Neal and those guys did two years ago, or what last year's seniors with Derrick Taylor and Malik Barbee and that whole group. You guys have to step out own your own.' Those guys rose to the challenge this year and got us at least qualified for the playoffs."
Here's what we learned.
The Generals' offense is hitting its stride
Jackson also ran for 119 yards and a touchdown. He committed his first turnover of the season with a third-quarter fumble. Otherwise, the senior has been flawless.
Lawson had touchdown catches of 49, 32 and eight yards.
Generals' defense steps up
Eisenhower's (0-8) offense has scored on some of the top teams in the Central State 8 this season. Spates knew that and challenged his team this week to not let any of the Panthers' skill players to get behind the secondary.
The Generals answered, holding the Panthers to less than 150 yards of total offense while getting into the back field several times against the Panthers' quarterback combination of Brylan Phillips and Eilyjah Woods. Jeffery Wells also had a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown and Ja'Kez Jones had an 80-yard pick-6.
"We challenged them to shut them out," Spates said. "We wanted to put pressure on them. We felt they couldn't run by us and different things like that. They've done some great things. We challenged our kids, 'Don't let them run by you. Make them run their offense.' We wanted to limit the big plays defensively."
Young Panthers still growing
Eisenhower has a young team, but the Panthers were able to move the ball a bit with deep throws by Phillips and creative ways to get the ball in the hands of sophomore playmaker Karon Shelley.
The young team has taken its lumps, but it's a learning process for a team with a new coaching staff.
"They're a couple years ahead of us," Eisenhower coach Steve Thompson said, 'if not more. Coach Spates has been there a long time. They're a more veteran team than we are. We're still young, trying to learn it and are trying to match intensity. We're going to learn from this, but we've got to learn those types of things. We did some good things. We can learn from those. We also made some costly mistakes."
Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!