Stillman Valley captures Class 3A state championship

By Matt Nestor

Sports Columnist

The Stillman Valley Cardinals had built up a big lead against Tolono Unity by the time starting quarterback Dane Green went down with an injury. Little did they know, the rout was just starting.

After building a 31-14 halftime lead, the Cardinals tacked on 21 more points behind backup quarterback Scott Eller as Stillman Valley rolled to a 52-22 victory in the IHSA Class 3A State Championship game.

“We are blessed to have a lot of depth on our squad,” Stillman Valley Head Coach Mike Lalor said. “We give our second string a lot of preparation in practice and expect them to be ready if they are called into action. We felt confident when Scott (Eller) came in the game, and he was very composed and executed.”

The Cardinals fell behind early when Dustin Jolley ran in from 5 yards out for Tolono to give them an early 6-3 lead. But Stillman Valley was quick to respond.

The Cardinals scored on three straight possessions with touchdowns from Adam Cox and Shawn Cox on the ground, as well as a 25-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Schweng to Matt Arnold. With a 24-6 lead, the game seemed to be all but over.

A second touchdown from Adam Cox, however, was sandwiched by touchdown runs of 4 and 70 yards by Dylan Sturgeon for Tolono. The score sat at 31-22, and without their starting quarterback, things were tight.

The Cardinals’ defense stiffened up, however, causing its fourth turnover on a fumble and also holding Tolono to a turnover on downs following a third touchdown for Adam Cox. Brandon Schweng added a 31-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring.

“We turned the ball over at some points in the game, which was really uncharacteristic of our team during the year,” Tolono coach Scott Hamilton said about the team’s four turnovers. “They did a great job bottling up our inside game. You have to credit our guys for never quitting. We got the big touchdown run to open the second half, but were never able to get the big stop on defense to swing the momentum.”

The Cardinals outgained Tolono 488-255 in total yardage, which included 463 yards on the ground. Adam Cox ran for 119 yards to go with his three touchdowns, while Schweng added 107 yards.

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From the December 2-8, 2009 issue

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