Oct. 23—WALTON — Lewis Cass' sectional win over Delphi on Friday night could best be described as tough.
The Kings toughed out a 32-13 victory over the Oracles for their first sectional win since the 2019 sectional championship team.
"It was just a great win. We finally got ourselves a playoff win," Lewis Cass senior quarterback LJ Hillis said. "It took us four years to do it but we got the job done and we've just got to keep moving on next week."
While the final score looks lopsided, it was a hard-fought game on the field. The Kings (6-4) secured a winning season by beating an Oracles team (4-6) that entered on a three-game winning streak and having won four of their last five.
"We knew they'd be tough coming in," Hillis said. "We really didn't underestimate them. We knew they were a good football team and they'd give us a fight. They played their hearts out there. We just luckily came out on top. We played the better game."
The Kings opened the scoring in the second quarter when Jonny Mack took a handoff 23 yards for a touchdown on a fourth-and-2 play with 8:18 left. The score would remain 6-0 at halftime as the Kings moved the ball in the first half but were stopped on three other fourth-down plays. They overcame a turnover on a fumbled snap by getting the ball right back when a quarterback pressure by Wyatt Loos turned into an interception by Dalton Lowe midway through the first quarter.
The Kings had a strong start to the second half, as it took less than a minute for them to drive down the field. Cooper Frey scored on a 9-yard run to make it 12-0 with 11:03 left in the third. The 2-point run was stopped again.
The Oracles answered back on a wide receiver reverse pass that fooled the Kings, as Kaydyn McAtee hit quarterback Joshua Hartley for a 40-yard TD pass to make it 12-6 with 8:32 left in the third. The PAT kick was blocked.
The Kings answered right back with another scoring drive. They were aided with a pass interference penalty on a fourth-and-8 play from the Delphi 21 for a first down. After a Cass holding penalty moved the ball back to the 20, Trevor Rowe ran for 16 yards down the 4. The junior fullback then ran it into the end zone from 4 yards out on the next play with 1:41 left in the third. The Oracles again stopped the 2-point run.
The Kings forced a three-and-out to get the ball back and then quickly again drove the ball down the field. Hillis scored from 4 yards out to make it 24-6 with 8:56 remaining. The 2-point pass fell incomplete.
The Oracles answered with a scoring drive. Hartley hit Walker Jones for a 32-yard pass down to the 3-yard line. Hartley later scored from 9 yards out and his PAT kick made it a 24-13 game with 6:22 left.
The Kings were stopped on their next drive as they recovered an onside kick but Cooper Frey was tripped up a yard short of a first down on a fourth-down run at the 41-yard line. But the Oracles went four-and-out with four straight incomplete passes to give the ball back to the Kings with 4:16 left.
Rowe ran for 22 yards and was tackled with the help of a horse-collar penalty that moved the ball down to the 4-yard line. But the Oracles held the Kings out of the end zone on four straight plays and they got the ball back with 1:22 left.
But Gavin Smith intercepted a pass and ran it 9 yards into the end zone to give the win an exclamation point with 1:17 left. Frey ran in the 2-pointer to make it 32-13.
Rowe led the Kings with 164 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 carries. Frey had 64 yards and a TD on 15 attempts. Smith had 46 yards on seven carries. Mack had 30 yards and a TD on seven carries.
Hillis was 9-of-11 passing for 89 yards. He added 47 yards rushing and a TD on eight carries. Frey had three catches for 35 yards. Mack had four catches for 30 yards. Rowe added two receptions for 24 yards.
The Kings have found more of an offensive identity and weapons as the season has gone along. They won their third straight game and have put up an average of 30.6 points per game for the entire season.
"Everybody's really getting better in practice," Hillis said. "I feel like we really are improving each week and that's what you've got to do to win games in this tournament."
The Kings have won four of their last five despite Hillis breaking his hand entering the Week 6 game against Whitko. He's been playing quarterback with a cast on his right throwing had.
"A lot of adrenaline, a lot of Tylenol," he said. "It's tougher than usual but we get it done most of the time. We don't throw it that far most of the time."
He's not the only King playing through an injury.
"We've got some tough guys on this team and we'll do whatever it takes to win," he said.
The Kings held the Oracles to 59 yards rushing on 25 attempts. Delphi was 7-of-16 passing for 112 yards.
"They did what they needed to do to win in the tournament," Cass coach Clayton Mannering said of his team. "It wasn't pretty, especially in the first half there. But I'm really proud of our seniors. Offensively we were able to move the ball all night. That's always a key for us. Defensively we kept some really good players in front of us. When you do that you have a chance to move on. I'm proud of these guys.
"LJ Hillis, Cooper Frey, Eli Martin, Wyatt Loos, those guys are not always the most talented guys on the field but they find a way to be the best football players on the field. They've done that for four years. I'm really happy for them. This is the first playoff game we've won since I've been here. The same for these seniors. I hope we're not done yet."
Cass hosts Seeger (7-3) for a semifinal game Friday night. Cass is 5-0 at Owens Memorial Field this season. Class 2A No. 12 Rochester (7-2) travels to No. 10 Lafayette Central Catholic (7-3) in the other Sectional 34 semifinal.