By RICHARD MARKEY
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Quincy Notre Dame football coach Bill Connell thought hard, but he couldn't come up with an answer.
He hasn't seen anything comparable to safety Jordan Chapel's electrifying performance Friday night.
Chapel pulled off a rare trifecta by returning an interception, a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns during the Raiders' 48-8 Mid-State Six Conference drubbing of Peoria Manual at the QND field.
"In over 21 years, I don't know if I've seen another performance like his," Connell said. "I've seen a kid do a kickoff and punt, but never the third part. It was an unbelievable individual performance, but that's the way he comes to work every day. He works his tail off to get better, and obviously it carries over to the game."
Chapel was quick to note he's just one of many who put in the extra time on special teams.
"We work every week on our special teams," Chapel said. "We don't take it off. We go hard on special teams in practice every week."
It's put QND in an enviable position.
Next week, the Raiders (5-2, 4-0 MS6) go head-to-head with Peoria Richwoods for the MS6 championship. Since QND joined the league in 2006, Richwoods is the only conference school it has lost to.
And with QND and Chillicothe IVC leaving for the West Central Conference and the rest of the MS6 merging with the Western Big Six Conference next year, the Raiders can claim to be the final MS6 champion with a victory.
"It's been a goal of ours to get back to the conference championship since last year. That's our goal every year," Connell said. "Next week, I'm looking forward to a good, clean, hard-hitting football game that the players win on the field."
Against Manual, QND's defense owned the field.
With QND leading 13-0 after touchdown runs by Chad Thompson and Connor Obert, Manual quarterback Billy Brown attempted to throw deep down the left sideline. However, Chapel was there to pick off the pass and return it 46 yards for the score.
"I broke on the ball because I got a good read on it," Chapel said. "I got some great blocks downfield from (Nick) Weiman and just took it in."
Chapel's 65-yard punt return 2 minutes, 36 seconds later pushed the QND lead to 27-0 before the end of the first quarter. The Raiders' lead swelled to 41-0 by halftime before Chapel returned the second-half kickoff 77 yards for his third score.
Chapel finished with 206 all-purpose yards as QND secured a playoff position for the 10th consecutive season.
"I asked the team to think about where they were in 2003, ‘What grade school were you in, how old were you, what were you doing, what town did you live in and what were you about?'" Connell said. "And ever since then, this team has been going to the playoffs."
QND quarterback Joe McCaughey finished 7 of 10 for 141 yards and a passing touchdown to Barry Welper. Weiman finished with 55 yards rushing and a touchdown, followed by Obert with 38 yards rushing.