By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Quentin Lefever hasn't forgotten how he felt riding the bus home from Galesburg, Ill., after Week 8 of last season, knowing the Quincy High School football team's playoff hopes had been dashed.
Lefever felt a whole lot better knowing Galesburg was making that ride home Friday night.
The Blue Devils clinched a playoff berth with a 14-12 Western Big Six Conference victory at Flinn Stadium. Galesburg's playoff hopes are over.
"It's an exciting feeling just to know the pain I had last year, they've got going on their bus now," Lefever said.
The Blue Devils were 3-4 last year entering Week 8 and lost 28-27 to Galesburg in double overtime, eliminating QHS's playoff hopes. The Blue Devils won Week 9 to finish 4-5.
QHS (6-2, 3-2) is in a decent situation with playoff points this year, but now, nothing is left to chance. The playoff berth will be the Blue Devils' first since 2010 and sixth in program history.
"It's absolutely amazing," Lefever said. "The thought that no matter what we do from here on out, we're at least in the postseason. It's fantastic. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but it's good to get that monkey off our back.
Lefever, a senior lineman, and a host of other Blue Devils stuffed Ben Holloway for a 3-yard loss on Galesburg's fourth-and-4 play from Quincy's 27-yard line with just more than a minute remaining.
The play went right up the middle, and QHS got a great surge. Holloway finished 146 yards on 33 carries.
"They stopped the play that we probably had over a hundred yards on," Galesburg coach Tim Dougherty said. "You don't get fancy. You've got to go with what got you there. I don't think a game like this comes down to one play. Even if we get a first down, we've still got to convert."
The fourth-down stop allowed QHS to escape after Galesburg (3-5, 2-3) recovered an onside kick with 2:47 remaining.
Galesburg made it a two-point game on J.J. Range's 1-yard TD run with 2:51 left. Quarterback Peyton Isaacson tried to connect with Holloway on the two-point play, but QHS safety Wes Creasy was there to provide tight coverage.
The Silver Streaks needed a two-point conversion because of botched extra point after Isaacson's 32-yard TD pass to Jake Ferguson with 2:03 left in the third quarter.
"We got a gang-tackle on (the holder)," said QHS senior linebacker Malik Bondon, who was in on the tackle. "The snap was too low, and he couldn't get his hands on it. It's really slippery out here. Thank God for that."
Yet, the slippery conditions probably also had a role in QHS fumbling five times, with one recovered by Galesburg. The Blue Devils had a modest 296 yards of offense.
"Sometimes you need a game like this," QHS coach Rick Little said. "You want to play your best football and peak Week 8, Week 9, and clearly by the score and by the way we played, it wasn't our best football. But Galesburg had something to do with that."
QHS took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on Bryce Unmisig's 60-yard touchdown run. Unmisig had a team-high 124 yards on 11 carries.
A short punt gave QHS starting field position at its 49-yard line early in the fourth quarter, and QHS turned it into a seven-play scoring drive capped by George Crickard IV's 1-yard quarterback sneak. That put QHS ahead 14-6 with 8:19 to play.
Bondon had 19 total tackles in helping limit Galesburg to 307 yards. He exited in the fourth quarter, however, with a sprained ankle. Galesburg scored one TD with Bondon on the bench but couldn't get a second.
"When Malik went down, (fullback Malique Robbins) came up and said, ‘Quentin, you're the senior out here. You've got to lock it down," Lefever said. "It hurt my pride to think they scored a touchdown when I was out there and Malik wasn't. But we came out (after the onside kick) hard-nosed and fought them off."
Note: The print version of this story stated QHS missed the 2012 playoffs due to a lack of playoff points. However, the Blue Devils finished 4-5. The loss to Galesburg eliminated QHS from playoff contention.