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Preview state high school football championships

Preview state high school football championships

Unbeaten, #1 ranked Mount Carmel certainly remembers last season’s thrilling win against Batavia in the second round of the Class 7A state playoffs.

There were two controversial passes interference calls and the caravan eventually won the non-stop. But Mount Carmel has persisted. Quarterback Blainey Dowling is a completely different player, stronger and much more dangerous.

Losses continued in Batavia.

“That was a very emotional game for our program, for our community, and for our kids,” said Bulldogs coach Dennis Perron. “I heard about it pretty much every week for a whole year. If anything, I’d be glad we ended up talking about it.”

Batavia doesn’t seem obsessed with getting revenge on Mount Carmel. It’s the country title game and it’s always a special moment for the community, especially in a football-crazy place like Batavia. But matchmaking against the caravan again adds some spice to the game, which is at 4pm on Saturday in Champaign.

Batavia has two Power Five downhill players, Tyler Jansey (Wisconsin) and Jack Sadoski (Iowa State). The Bulldogs offense has improved all season but they are a defensively led team.

“[Jansey] Perron said. “He’s special, plays a terrific full-back and comes back strong. He had some criticism after last year’s game. It wasn’t always nice.”

Mount Carmel (13-0) has been very difficult to contend with this season.

“We’re built on the front seven,” said Caravan coach Jordan Lynch. “They are physical and they fly.”

Denny Furlong and Alonzo Manning stepped up and helped fill the void after star Mount Carmel running back Darion Dupree was injured. But the bigger offensive sparks come from the passing game now. Dowling was outstanding, throwing for 2,719 yards and 39 touchdowns with only six interceptions.

It’s hard to see Batavia score enough points to pull off an upset, but anything can happen in the state championship game.

Class 8A: Lincoln Way East vs. Loyola, 7 p.m., Saturday

Lincoln-Wye East (13-0) is undefeated, but Loyola (12-1) is the heavy favorite. Mount Carmel is the only team to challenge the Ramblers this season. Loyola defeated undefeated York 30-3 in the semifinals.

Colgate recruit Jake Stearney (2,149 yards passing with 34 touchdowns and three interceptions) is an experienced and effective quarterback and the Ramblers continue to find new faces to step up for their injured running backs. Possibly the player who reappears in the title game is Luke Foster.

Michigan-bound defensive lineman Brooks Behr anchors the Loyola defense. Senior Johnny McGuire has emerged as a factor in the defensive backfield.

“He played great,” said Loyola coach John Holcek. “Every game I’m more amazed at what he can do. He’s just such a fast, strong beast. He’s got a Colgate show but I think he’s more of a Big Ten kid.”

The undefeated Griffins lack star power and top collegiate recruits, but any doubts about the team were obliterated in the semifinals when they dominated Glenbard West 31-7.

“There is no Jay Henning in the group,” said Lincoln Way East coach Rob Zvonar. “It is typical for children to get the most out of themselves, have fun and love to play together as a team.”

Running back James Kwiczynski averaged 115 yards per game and scored 26 touchdowns. He’s the backbone of the offense, but receiver Jamie Curtin and quarterback Braden Tesher have built solid connection all season with 10 touchdown passes.

“[Jake Scianna] “He is the heart and soul of our defence,” said Zvonar. “He has 200 tackles and is the best quarterback in the state in my opinion. His two brothers have played in state championship games as well.”

Class 6A: Prairie Ridge vs. East St. Louis at 1 p.m. Saturday

Again, it’s a Fox Valley Conference team against East St. Louis. Curry Grove upset the Flyers last season. This is the sixth year in a row that Cary-Grove or Prairie Ridge has reached the 6A game title.

Prairie Ridge (12-1) lost to East St. Louis in 2019 and won the title in 2017, 2016 and 2011.

As usual, Flyers are my favourites. But East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett isn’t happy facing another team that runs the triple option.

“It’s an insult that a lot of teams don’t manage anymore,” Sunkett said. “We have our pieces working for us. There’s no way to offensively mimic what they’re doing. The main thing is knowing their blocking schemes.”

Wolverhampton midfielder Tyler Vasey is a leading contender for Player of the Year. He rushed for 3,776 yards and 52 touchdowns.

East St. Louis (11-2) has yet to lose against a team in Illinois. The Flyers were loaded with college prospects and only got challenged once all season, when they beat Lemont 32-29 in the semifinals.

Class 5A: Nazareth vs. Peoria at 10 a.m. on Saturday

Nazareth’s road to Champaign was bumpy and at times unlikely.

“When we were 2-4, one of my assistants mentioned something about the playoffs and I laughed,” Road Runners coach Tim Rackey said.

The young group of Nazareth finished the regular season with four consecutive victories and did not lag behind in the playoffs. The Roadrunners defeated Boylan, locked out Morgan Park and survived 10-7 against the mighty undefeated Sycamore.

Raki’s philosophy was to cheer his team on and try to stifle any instinct to shout and bring the group down. This is the usual approach for young coaches and seems to be the best way to reach the current generation of players.

“I knew I had a bunch of little guns around me,” Rackey said after his Morgan Park win. “Everyone thought I was going to yell at them after the losses. I kept bringing them in. Telling them what they did right and what they did wrong and they responded to that.”

Senior quarterback Logan Malachuk threw for 2,233 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’s gotten even more dangerous this season, with five touchdowns on the ground.

Senior Justin Taylor, a Wisconsin recruit, averages 5.23 yards per carry and has 46 catches. He scored 11 defeats for the team.

Nazareth’s Logan Malachuk (1) rallies for first defeat against Morgan Park.

Quinn Harris/Sun Times

Nazareth’s defense is deceptively strong. St. Rita, Lemont, and Marist (all strong programs in the larger classes) all put points on the Roadrunners but that wasn’t the case in Class 5A. Nazareth beat Kankakee in the season opener and only allowed three touchdowns in three playoff games.

The defense will have everything it can handle Saturday in the Class 5A state title game in Champaign. Peoria (12-1) averaged 55 points in the playoffs and beat Morris 76-56 in the semifinals.

Running back Malachi Washington has 47 touchdowns and 3,073 yards. Quarterback Tino Guest threw for 2,241 yards with 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Expect a penalty shootout in the first game of the day, Saturday.

There are local teams in the last two matches of the tournament on Friday. Here’s a look at those matches. We’ll have a preview of Class 8A, 7A, and 6A games tomorrow.

Class 4A: Providence vs. Sacred Heart-Griffin, 7 p.m., Fri

The Celtics (9-4) struggled to reach the Championship title. They defeated state champions Joliet Catholic (the team that defeated them in Week 4), Richmond Burton and St. Francis. It wasn’t surprising to see any of those three teams in Champaign.

First year head coach Tyler Plantz now has a battle-tested squad led by young linebacker Caden Nickel.

“It’s an animal,” said Plants. “He’s not the biggest kid on the field but you’ll feel his pad if you’re on the other side of him.”

Sacred-Heart Griffin (13-0) is a powerhouse who averages 58 points while allowing just over 16 twice. Longtime coach Ken Leonard, the winningest coach in state history, has led SHG to five state championships and four runner-up finishes.

Class 3A: IC Catholic vs. Williamsville, 4 p.m., Friday

IC Catholic is a familiar face in the state finals after winning Class 3A titles in 2016 and 2017 and the Class 4A title in 2018. The Knights’ only loss this season was a one-point defeat to Joliet Catholic and they are favorites against Williamsville (12-1), a school 14 miles north of Springfield. .

KJ Parker and Denzell Gibson are dynamic threats on both sides of the ball for IC Catholic. They combined for 37 touchdowns. Parker has 33 receptions for 996 yards and Gibson averages 9.6 yards.

“[Gibson] said Bill Kreeft, Catholic IC coach. “He’s one of the best athletes that’s come in through the IC and he can jump from running back to receiver.

“We get Parker in as many touches as we can. He can be our whole offense, he’s explosive. He’s selfless and keeps his ass off the edge.”



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