By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
The offense provided enough big plays for Rockford Boylan Catholic. But when it was all said and done, it was again the Boylan defense that stood strong and gave the Boylan Titans their second straight IHSA championship.
The Boylan defense intercepted two Jordan Davis passes, including one at the goal line, and held tough after a late blocked field goal to lead the Titans to the Class 7A championship 21-14 over Wheaton Warrenville South Saturday, Nov. 26.
“I was really impressed with our defense stepping up in the playoffs,” Boylan’s Ty Zimmerman, who had one of the interceptions, said. “Luke Riggs solidified his spot as a starter and came out really big today. It’s our whole defense stepping up that really got us this win today and throughout the playoffs.”
Things could not have started better for the Titans. After kicking off, they held the Tigers to a punt on their first possession.
When Boylan got the ball, Lamont Toney made things look easy. On a quarterback read on the first play, Toney pulled back a handoff intended for Tyreis Thomas and raced 72 yards for the opening score.
“Our first touchdown, Lamont made a great read,” Boylan Head Coach Dan Appino said. “He made a pull on our normal give to Tyreis because he could see everybody suck in on him and had a great run.”
The Titans moved the ball easily for much of the first half. On the next possession, Toney connected with Jaxson Meister on a 44-yard pass, and Thomas, who ran for a game-high 139 yards, helped set up a 27-yard field goal by Sean Slattery.
Another Slattery field goal sent Boylan into the half up 13-0. The Titans appeared to be rolling, even as the offense struggled in the second half.
But just as Boylan got comfortable, the Tigers’ Dan Vitale, who ran for 125 yards in the contest, picked up 53 of those in three plays, including a 24-yard scamper to make the score 13-7.
“He’s a horse,” Appino said of the Northwestern recruit Vitale. “He’s physical. He’s everything we had heard about. He gave them opportunities in the second half.”
On the ensuing possession, a rare fumble by Thomas of Boylan at midfield gave the Tigers a shot to take the lead. Vitale was able to lead WWS all the way down to the Boylan 13-yard line.
After a holding penalty wiped out a potential third-and-goal from the 1 yard line, Tigers quarterback Jordan Davis, who was intercepted by Riggs early in the game, threw his second interception of the game to Zimmerman.
A penalty on the return left Boylan at their own 17-yard line, but two plays later, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Toney again hooked up with Meister on a 79-yard touchdown strike to give Boylan a 21-7 lead.
“We faked the bubble screen, and they came up,” Appino said. “Lamont made a great strike, and Jaxson pulled it in.”
A controversial fumble in a potential dead ball situation by Boylan was returned by Adam Dansdill for the Tigers to pull them back to within a touchdown.
Boylan appeared ready to put the game away with a field goal, but it was blocked by Daniel Roadman to give the Tigers one last shot.
A big sack by Austin Smith of Boylan on second down put the Tigers in tough field position, and two Davis incomplete passes later ended the threat and gave Boylan their second-straight title.
“It means a lot,” Thomas said. “A lot of people came out and said we couldn’t do it. We won in 6A, and we turned around and won it in 7A. It was a real good feeling because people said we couldn’t do it.”
In other area action:
Dakota had won state titles before. But this appearance was highly unlikely.
Even after falling behind 14-0, the Indians didn’t get fazed and came back in record-setting fashion to pick up the Class 1A state championship 41-27 over Tuscola.
“These guys surprised me again,” Dakota Head Coach Jerry Lano said. “When we thought it might be all over, they came out and surprised me in the second half. This is the third or fourth game in a row where they have surprised the dickens out of me.”
Tuscola got out to a quick lead after Austin Sexson scored on a 16-yard run and Jimmy Knight caught a 53-yard pass from Philip Meyer.
“We did a poor job of containing their quarterback in the first half, and he got outside of us,” Lano said. “In the second half, he started dropping straight back, and that helped us keep him contained.”
After falling behind, Dakota’s Jake Apple took over Champaign. Apple ran for consecutive touchdowns of 74, 10, 64 and 49 yards on his way to a then-record 373 yards in a championship game.
That record would fall the next day when Joliet Catholic’s Ty Isaac ran for 519 yards in a loss. But despite battling a shoulder injury, Apple fought through for his team.
Tuscola did get within 7 points in the fourth quarter, but a touchdown run by Drew Geiseman, as well as a Geiseman touchdown pass to Lance McCauley, helped the Indians seal the deal.
“The second half, we played pretty well; that’s a great football team in Tuscola, and it was a bad mismatch for us,” Lano said. “They were a bunch of skilled, athletic kids, and we’re just a bunch of big, strong farm boys.”
From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2011, issue