By Matt Nestor
With their win in the IHSA Class 6A quaterfinals against Cary-Grove, the Boylan Titans are in a great position going into the semifinals.
Not only are the Titans coming in off a win over the defending state champions in 6A, but they also will get to host the semifinal matchup Saturday, Nov. 20, to determine who gets to play in the state championship game.
“It’s a huge win against a high-quality team,” Boylan Head Coach Dan Appino said. “It’s awesome. It’s what our kids were hoping for. It just feels great to have that opportunity.”
All that stands in the way of the Titans is a Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge team that avenged their only loss of the season to beat top seed Crystal Lake South 37-10 in their quarterfinal matchup.
Prairie Ridge (11-1) won the Fox Division of the Fox Valley Conference to qualify for the playoffs. After losing 24-20 to South in the regular season, they used three turnovers to stun the Valley Division champs of the Fox Valley.
“I think the Fox Valley Conference has some of the best teams in northern Illinois, especially in 6A,” Appino said. “Either way, we are either facing the conference champion or the team that beat the conference champion.”
The Wolves present an interesting challenge for the Titans. Prairie Ridge is a team that thrives off turnovers, creating 26 during the season, 20 of those interceptions.
They were bolstered by three more interceptions in their win against Crystal Lake South. The Titans have struggled at times with turnovers. So against a ball-hawking defense, it will be very important for not only their defense to play tough, but for the offense to keep their minds looking forward in the game.
“Unfortunately, our kids have kind of gotten used to responding after turnovers. That’s a bad tolerance,” Appino said. “But they don’t get too flustered by it. We have the kind of kids that know they can score again the next chance they get.”
The Wolves are a team that loves to run the ball, and they do it well. Junior running back Connor Greenwald rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season, while quarterback Stephen Covalt ran for more than 700 yards to go with more than 600 passing yards.
While Prairie Ridge does execute the run well, much like Cary-Grove, neither team possesses a real size advantage along the line, which is good news for a physical Boylan defense.
The Titans’ defense has been stout against the run all year. Even while giving up 217 rushing yards to Cary-Grove, that was all the yards the Trojans got and less than half of what they rushed for the previous week.
The Titans will likely be favored to go downstate for the first time since 1975 playing at home. But they are not trying to think at all right now about what awaits them if they win, only concentrating on being well prepared for Saturday’s showdown.
“Our eyes are on the prize, which is state,” running back Tyreis Thomas said. “But we are going to take it week by week.”
From the Nov. 17-23, 2010 issue