By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
As the first quarter ended, the game already appeared over. The Rockford Boylan Titans had totaled 85 yards of offense and scored 14 points, while Oak Park Fenwick had totaled minus 1 yard on no points in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs Saturday, Nov. 3.
As the clock was winding down in the fourth quarter, it again appeared to be over. The Friars had totaled 249 yards of offense and 21 points the rest of the game, while the Titans had only managed 82 yards and no points.
Trailing 21-14 with 18 seconds left, the Fenwick punt landed inside the Boylan 10-yard line, where the Titans’ Peter Cimino picked it up around the 6. He avoided a tackler, barely kept his balance and reversed fields.
“I was seeing a lot of green grass,” Cimino said. “My teammates had a lot of great blocks on that play, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
There was nothing but green in front of him. Green grass, green jerseys to block. Cimino was not touched as he ran 94 yards for a touchdown as the clock hit zeroes.
“That he made that play, it didn’t surprise me,” Boylan Head Coach John Cacciatore said. “That I saw it happen, that I was on the sidelines, that was the emotional charge out of it.”
That left one final decision to be made. Cacciatore could kick the extra point and play for overtime. Or, he could elect to go for two.
“I know our coach doesn’t settle for ties,” Cimino said. “We’ll go for the win every time.”
The Titans lined up, trailing by 1 with no time on the clock. Quarterback Brock Stull handed the ball to Zachary Matthews, who fought and plunged his way across the goal line, converting the two and capping one of the greatest comebacks in IHSA playoffs history, giving Boylan a 22-21 win.
“It’s mind boggling,” DeMarcus Vines said. “I’m just happy we get another week to play football. I love playing with these guys. I would have been heartbroken if this was my last game.”
The punt return overshadowed a great effort by the Friars and put the Titans’ season in jeopardy.
Fenwick outgained the Titans, led by 113 rushing yards by Robert Spillane. They also got 98 passing yards and two great touchdown passes from quarterback Gino Cavalieri, one of which was set up by a fumble by Cimino on a kickoff.
The Friars’ defense also picked off two Stull passes and held Vines to 52 rushing yards, only 14 after the first quarter, while dominating time of possession.
“They capitalized on our mistakes, and they fought back hard,” Vines, who scored a first-quarter touchdown, said.
The Fenwick effort is part of the reason why Cacciatore did not hesitate when faced with his decision at the end. He said he trusted his defense, but the way his offense was playing, overtime was a tough proposition, even at home.
“That is an enormous team, and when they get their meathooks in to you, they were just sledding and sledgehammering us,” Cacciatore said. “I didn’t want to get into a 10-yard fight with that group. The game was going to end either way. I wanted it to end in two-and-half yards rather than 10.”
The decision and the win would not have been possible without Cimino’s amazing return. The Titans hope this can be a turning point on another long run in the playoffs.
“This is as good as it gets,” Cimino said. “We have to keep winning and see how far this can take us.”
In other area action:
• The Titans’ next opponent will be a rematch from last year against Lake Zurich, who topped the Rockton Hononegah Indians 17-6. Connor Schrader scored a late touchdown to help put the game away. Four turnovers doomed the Indians, who could only manage 156 yards against the Lake Zurich defense. Boylan will travel to Lake Zurich for the third-round matchup. Hononegah ended their season with a 9-2 record.
• Eight different players found the end zone for the Winnebago Indians. Jake Hickey had 80 rushing yards to lead a group of seven players with at least 20 rushing yards as Winnebago cruised to a 56-20 win over Elmwood-Brimfield. They will travel to face top seed Aurora Christian in the next round.
• James Robinson ran for 181 yards for Rockford Lutheran, but the rest of the Crusaders’ offense was shut down as they were upset 42-14 by Mercy County to end their incredible season at 9-2.
• Adam Hogerwerf scored four touchdowns, three of which came in the second half, helping lead Rock Island Alleman to an easy 42-7 victory over Stillman Valley, knocking the Cardinals out of the playoffs.
From the Nov. 7-13, 2012, issue