- Associated Press - Saturday, November 26, 2016

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Peoria showcased its explosive offense, punishing Vernon Hills in a 62-48 win in Saturday’s IHSA Class 5A state football championship.

The Lions’ Geno Hess rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Coran Taylor added 134 yards and three scores on the ground. Taylor also passed for 215 yards and two scores.

Peoria averaged 58 points a game entering Saturday’s contest.

“We weren’t expecting that out of their quarterback, but we weren’t expecting a lot of things that we saw today,” Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo said. “I joked that they reminded me of the Carolina Panthers, but after seeing them in person, it’s almost not a joke. They were bigger and faster than we saw on film, and they do a great job on the line of scrimmage.”

The teams kept pace with each other before takeaways created second-half separation for Peoria. After a turnover-free first half, Vernon Hills quarterback Kyle Hull threw two interceptions and fumbled away the ball once.

“They made some mistakes in the second half, and we were able to capitalize,” Peoria coach Tim Thornton said. “Every game we want to force teams into more plays than they are used to, and we were able to do that today. It’s more chances for us and more chances for them to make mistakes.”

Despite the loss, the Cougars’ Drew Winegardner, who had 19 catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns, said he had fun.

“Hats off to them, and I thought our guys were so tough in hanging with them,” Winegardner said. “It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing a football game.”

Even with the interceptions, Hull had a mammoth game, going 45 for 59 passing for 426 yards and six touchdowns. He also ran for 46 yards and a score.

The Lions’ Aaron Jowers caught six passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

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