Eldorado found a friend in the form on a passing game in its first round matchup of the IHSA Class 2A playoffs Saturday at Bismark-Henning High School.
Unfortunately, it came too late as the Eagles spotted the Blue Devils 20 first half points in a 41-22 loss as Eldorado ends its season at 5-5.
Eldorado threw for 306 yards and senior quarterback Aidan Whitlock threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes to Ladayyea Shewmaker from 14 yards and 65 yards, the last getting the Eagles to within 12 with 8:08 to play.
But the story of the day for the Blue Devils (9-1) was Caleb Lahey as the senior running back tallied four scores on the day to keep Bismark-Henning's season alive.
"We just had a slow start, without question," Eldorado head coach Joe Clark said. "Defensively, we played well for 55 of the 60 snaps. Some of the other circumstances and the things they did to hurt us, credit to them, obviously they stopped us twice inside the 10. At halftime it's just a different situation. But our kids continued to play and I'm just proud of the overall effort."
Scoring opportunities presented itself in the first half for Eldorado, Instead, the Eagles were shutout 20-0 in the first two quarters of play.
Bismark-Henning scores on its first three possessions of the first half as Lahey scored two touchdowns (4 and 6 yards) and quarterback Avery McConkey scores the games first TD on a keeper from 1-yard out as the Blue Devils took an early advantage.
On the flip side, Eldorado was in B-H twice in the first half, once on a 4th and 6 from the 6 and Whitlock's pass was just short of the end zone, intended for Jacob Etienne and again before halftime, facing a 4th-and-5 from the five and Shewmaker was stopped at the two-yard line.
The Eagles did get on the board out of halftime when Aidan Kuhn found pay dirt from one-yard out with 8:26 to play, but three minutes later, B-H answered with a touchdown throw from McConkey to Rhett Harper
Lahey then scored from 31 yards out to make it 34-6 and had 241 total yards before Eldorado put up back-to-back scores from Whitlock to Shewmaker.
"We made a few plays in some timely situations and then they got in to prevent and we just got down the field some," Clark said in the success of the passing game. "You take stock in that but you also have to understand the circumstances a little bit. But we made some big plays in the passing game. We knew we had to with their scheme, there's a lot of people up there and they're physical. You want to run the ball but you also try to have balance and I thought we did that throughout the course of the game."
Shewmaker finished with 146 yards on seven catches, but it was the big-play catches of Ezra Burtis (110 yards on five catches) that set up many of Eldorado's scores.
Parker Price had two catches for 36 yards and Etienne finished with two catches for 14 yards.
Whitlock was 28-for-16 with one interception, while the Eagles rushed for 88 yards as Shewmaker had 36 yards on 11 carries and Etienne finished with 31 yards on 11 carries. Aiden Kuhn had seven carries for 15 yards and Whitlock had two carries for six yards.
"Since January, the team has done nothing but deal with adversity," an emotional Clark said after the game. "The fact that they were able to get into the playoffs and play against a very good playoff team; their grit is beyond anything I've ever been a part of as a coach."
Nashville shut out Villa Grove 35-0 on Saturday and will be at Bismarck next Saturday at 2 p.m.
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.