Thomas, Titans race to first state championship
By Matt Nestor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill.—Boylan quarterback Lamont Toney drifted left with the pass rush bearing down on him. Just then, backup junior receiver Jaxon Meister broke open down the right side of the field.
With the flick of his wrist, Toney lofted a perfect pass that hit Meister in stride. After he waltzed into the end zone, Boylan hit the extra point and was well on its way to a 48-19 victory over Marmion to give the Titans the IHSA Class 6A championship.
“We practice that play all the time,” Meister said. “You just have to think ‘I can’t drop it,’ and put your arms out there. You dream about that all your life.”
Things were not always smooth sailing for the Titans on the way to the first state title in school history.
After marching down the field on the opening drive, Boylan running back Tyreis Thomas fumbled the ball at the Marmion 20-yard-line.
The Cadets took advantage and marched nine plays down the field to take a 7-0 lead on a touchdown by Nick Scoliere.
Boylan responded with a nine-play drive of their own, capped with a tough run by Frank Cimino on a 21-yard touchdown. But Marmion marched down the field, and T.J. Lally went 16 yards for a touchdown to give the Cadets a 13-7 lead.
After Meister’s touchdown gave Boylan a 14-13 lead, the Titans’ defense stripped Lally on the first play. Thomas responded three plays later with a 24-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 20-13.
“Last week, I knew I was getting keyed,” Thomas said. “It’s always hard for you to perform when you’re getting keyed. But this week, we came out with a different scheme. I wanted to show determination. And behind my great line, I was able to do that.”
Thomas later capitalized on a turnover to start the second half. After another Lally fumble was recovered by Chris Miller, his second recovery of the day, Thomas took the first play 38 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 34-19.
Thomas finished with 140 yards on 14 carries, with the two touchdowns. In all, the Titans finished with 415 total yards, 213 rushing and 202 passing.
Marmion entered the playoffs only giving up 8 points per game and shut out their first-round opponent. But the last three games saw their defense give up 75 points, and Head Coach Dan Thorpe was concerned about the Titans’ offensive potential.
“We had been better offensively than we had been defensively the last few weeks, and I was worried about that,” he said. “Whether it was poor tackling on our part, athleticism on their part, it was a very impressive Boylan team.”
The key to the Boylan offense was the decision by Appino to go back to their no-huddle offense. The Titans used the set often early in the year, but had gone away from that late in the season.
But with players like Lally and Scoliere playing on offense and defense, Appino knew that would be a good way to wear the Cadets’ stars down. His two quarterbacks responded by going 13 for 17 passing and running for 76 yards.
“The last few games, we played teams that had no two-way players, so we decided we weren’t gaining an advantage,” he said. “In this game, we knew coming in with four or five players going both ways, we have to go no-huddle. I think that made a big difference.”
The Cadets did have some success on offense against Boylan. They tallied 322 total yards. But six turnovers hurt any momentum they had.
The championship game was also bittersweet for the Cadets’ Lally, an all-state performer this year. The senior rushed for a game-high 145 yards and picked up a state finals record 18 tackles. But in the end, it was his three fumbles that spelled his team’s end.
“It’s tough when you play in the state championship, and we felt this was probably our worst game of the season on both sides of the ball,” Lally said. “You can always say what if, but you have to give it to Boylan. They played well today.”
For the Titans, the win capped an undefeated season and an exciting fall that also saw the soccer team win their first state title.
“I’m so proud of them and all the effort they’ve put in all season long to get to this point,” Appino said. “For all of our kids on the team, and the school, I’m so happy right now for everything that has come their way. It’s a super feeling.”
From the Dec. 1-7, 2010 issue