HAMILTON, Ill. -- The West Hancock football team has taken pride in its red zone defense this season.
"All year, we've been tough to score on," Titans defensive lineman Andy Bird said. "Once we get inside the 20, we get more aggressive and buckle down when we need to."
The Titans made some big stops in Saturday's Class 2A playoff game against Bismarck-Henning. West Hancock held the Blue Devils scoreless in four first-half red zone trips, while Bryce Wilson ran for 245 yards and three touchdowns to key a 28-12 victory at Repplinger Field.
The Titans (11-0) advance to face Maroa-Forsyth (10-1) in next Saturday's state quarterfinals.
"I've said this a lot this year, but it's a bend-don't-break type thing," West Hancock coach Travis Cook said. "I'm proud of the way the defense played today."
The Titans opened the game with a 12-play drive that took more than six minutes, but turned the ball over on downs at the 23-yard line.
Bismarck-Henning (7-4) answered with a lengthy drive of its own -- a possession that lasted 14 plays and went into the second quarter. The Blue Devils also were kept off the scoreboard, however, as the Titans made a stand at their own 7-yard line.
The stop immediately turned into points as Wilson took the next 93 yards for a touchdown run to put West Hancock up 6-0 with 11 minutes left in the first half.
"We saw on film that their linebackers kept setting up wide," Wilson said. "I thought I could run through there and break it, and that's what we did."
The Blue Devils wasted no time threatening to score again, getting to the Titans' 14-yard line before an 8-yard reception resulted in a forced fumble and a recovery by West Hancock's James Corvaia.
The Titans fumbled the ball back to the Blue Devils on the ensuing drive, but just two plays later, Bryce Buckert intercepted Bismarck-Henning's Wyatt?Edwards to give the ball back to West Hancock.
"Turnovers are big," Bird said. "Everything can start momentum, and those plays are what kept starting us."
West Hancock responded by ripping off another big scoring play, this time a 55-yard touchdown by Riley Langford down the right sideline for a 14-0 lead.
"I couldn't be happier blocking for the guys we have," Bird said. "Having faith that they're going to make plays, it makes my job up front a breeze."
The Blue Devils opened the second half with a scoring drive that made the score 14-6, but the Titans answered with a 3-yard touchdown by Wilson that came off of another Bismarck-Henning turnover, a fumble that was recovered by Kolton Johnson.
The two teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the Blue Devils couldn't cut the deficit to less than eight.
The victory over Bismarck-Henning is the second in three weeks for West Hancock. The Titans closed the regular season with a 38-28 win over the Blue Devils, but trailed as late as the fourth quarter.
"From playing them before, we knew what to expect and knew how physical they were," Bird said. "Last time, we came out a little flat. This game, we played physical all four quarters. We were ready for them.
West Hancock 28, Bismarck-Henning 12
19 First downs 10
51-241 Rushes-yards 45-340
82 Passing yards 8
323 Total yards 348
5-9-1 Comp-Att-Int 1-1-0
3-3 Fumbles-lost 1-1
4-40 Penalties-yards 9-81
Bismarck-Henning 0 0 6 6--12
West Hancock 0 14 8 6--28
WH--Bryce Wilson 93 run (2-pt failed), 11:00
W--Riley Langford 55 run (Wyette Casey pass from Bryce Buckert), 3:49
BH--Wyatt Edwards 2 run (2-pt failed), 8:11
WH--Wilson 3 run (Langford run), 2:31
BH--Edwards 8 run (2-pt failed), 10:28
WH--Wilson 24 run (2-pt failed), 5:34
RUSHING--Bismarck-Henning, Edwards 16-92, Cody Miller 14-62, Travis Lappin 10-64, Jacob Akins 10-20, Colten Arford 1-3. West Hancock, Wilson 29-245, Langford 13-89, Buckert 2-(-2), Chase Hartweg 1-(-2).
PASSING--Bismarck-Henning, Edwards 5-9-82-1. West Hancock, Buckert 1-1-8-0.
RECEIVING--Bismarck-Henning, Arford 4-57, Avery McConkey 1-25. West Hancock 1-8.