Titans survive late turnovers, advance to state finals

Tyreis Thomas tries to knife through the Prairie Ridge defense during the Titans' 14-7 win. Thomas ran for 67 yards in the victory. Photo by Matt Nestor

By Matt Nestor
Sports Columnist

The Boylan Titans had caused four turnovers, saw a game-tying 55-yard touchdown run by Prairie Ridge’s Jordan Getzelman called back because of a penalty, and stopped the Wolves on a fourth down in Boylan territory with less than 3 minutes to play.

But with 1:52 left in the game, the Titans were still clinging to a 14-7 lead.

Despite all of the problems with turnovers during the game, running back Connor Greenwald was careless with the ball after a pass from backup quarterback Nick Nissen and fumbled the ball away, the fifth Prairie Ridge turnover of the game.

That was enough for the Titans to hold on to their lead and advance to the IHSA Class 6A state championship.

“It’s awesome,” Boylan defensive lineman Dean Lowry said of Boylan’s first championship appearance in 35 years. “I can’t even explain how awesome this feels right now.”

This was after the Titans took a 14-0 lead into halftime, which was quickly cut in half. The Wolves took the opening possession down the field and scored on an 8-yard touchdown by Stephen Covalt.

“We came out a little bit too high in the second half,” Miller said. “We thought because we had a big lead in the first half that the game was over. We got a shot to the face, and we had to come back and regroup.”

After causing three first-half turnovers, the Titans caused Geltzelman to fumble late in the third. The Titans moved the ball deep into Wolves’ territory and seemed poised to go in for a game-sealing touchdown when Chris Miller fumbled the ball back to Prairie Ridge.

After causing another Getzelman fumble, the Titans again seemed ready to put the game away. This time, Aaron Einhorn gave the ball back to Prairie Ridge.

Boylan senior Chris Miller takes a moment to think about the Titans' big win while a teammate congratulates him. Miller and the Titans will play Nov. 27 in the state championship. Photo by Matt Nestor

But as they had done all day, the Titans put a hat on the ball, and Grant Flodin picked up the final fumble to help Boylan punch their ticket downstate.

“You gotta do what you gotta do to get the ball back on offense,” Miller said. “We turned the ball over, too; it was a dog fight. We came up with more than they did.”

Lowry added: “We had a nose for the ball, we gang tackled, and we have some playmakers on our defense that stepped up today. Our linebackers did a really good job blitzing. Our defensive line contained their gaps.”

The late turnovers overshadowed a near-flawless performance by Boylan’s two quarterbacks, Lamont Toney and Frank Cimino.

The quarterbacks combined for 8-for-0 passing for 100 yards, while also running 17 times for 95 yards, including a touchdown by Toney. The performance leaves the Titans feeling good heading to the championship.

“So proud of our quarterbacks today,” Boylan Head Coach Dan Appino said. “Frank took a nasty blow at the end of the first half, and he came back and played the second half. He did a phenomenal job.

Aaron Einhorn hauls in a pass from Frank Cimino during the Titans' 14-7 win over Prairie Ridge. Einhorn had 62 yards receiving in the game with a rushing touchdown. Photo by Matt Nestor

“Lamont has just gotten better each game this year,” Appino added. “I think the game has slowed down for him as he’s gotten used to our game and this level. He gets the things we are trying to accomplish, and by not adding a whole lot each week, it’s easier to play faster.”

But while the Titans are mostly pleased with their performance, they know that if they want to win their first state championship in school history, they will need a complete game across the board.

“We can’t afford to do that,” Appino said of the team’s late turnovers. “Now we keep saying that and advancing, but we have another week to work on that, and we are happy to have that. It’s something we are going to work on every week because it’s who we are and what we do. It’s fun to have that opportunity.”

The Titans will face Aurora Marmion Academy, who defeated Danville 31-28 to advance. The game will be at 1 p.m., Nov. 27, at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Live feed of the game will be available on ESPN3.com.

From the Nov. 24-30, 2010 issue

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