By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
It has been few and far between since Rockford Boylan’s win streak in the NIC-10 started that it really felt like it was in jeopardy. There was a close game with Belvidere, a down-to-the wire game against Belvidere North, and Machesney Park Harlem jumped out 20-0 one year and led the Titans at halftime last season.
Going into last week’s game against Rockton Hononegah, it really felt like there was a good chance the streak could end, and the crowd at the game was all there for a chance to see that history.
The buzz was at a fever pitch when Hononegah went into halftime with a 21-0 lead. Not only a lead, but a dominating performance in every aspect of the game.
But as they have done so many times, the Titans fought their way back. From 21-0. From 28-14 with just more than 7 minutes left in the game. They responded to a 65-yard touchdown by Jake Wilson to give Hononegah the lead right after Boylan had finally tied it at 28.
It took every ounce of fight that Boylan had within them to extend the streak to 67 games, but as Sam McGuire tied it with a touchdown, and the extra point sailed through the uprights, the Titans had done just that, eking out a 35-34 victory in the biggest, and best, game this area has seen in quite some time.
“We faced that kind of adversity last year at Harlem when we were down at Harlem,” backup quarterback, and offensive spark plug, Demry Croft said. “I thought we could come back, we just had to have the drive within ourselves, and that is what it was.”
It was Croft who ignited the Boylan offense, which struggled against Rockford Auburn and for a half against Hononegah. Croft came in and threw a touchdown pass to starting quarterback Brock Stull, who moved to receiver in the switch. He also had a 40-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
That move, in a vacuum, showed why Boylan is able to win game after game. Team is above all, and Stull, a returning senior who was arguably the best quarterback in the conference the previous year, switched positions mid game to try to help his team out of a funk.
“With (Chase) Ferger being out, we needed a weapon in the slot,” Stull said. “Coach felt like I was the guy to do that.”
And he was. Stull not only caught the touchdown pass, but caught two big passes on the game-winning drive for Boylan.
Turning around a moribund offense was a big key in the victory. So was four Hononegah fumbles, two of which were returned for touchdowns by Boylan, igniting the Titans’ sideline and showing that they could not give up.
“We got kicked in the mouth I don’t know how many times,” Stull said. “But we picked it up right after half, and we pulled it out.”
For the coaching staff, they were happy the team pulled it out. Not for any streak, but for the here and now as they work toward another conference title.
“One week at a time, and Harlem is up,” Boylan Head Coach John Caciatore said when asked about extending the streak. “We can’t say that it was the way we wanted to do it, winning ugly. But we’ll take it, and on to Harlem.”
But while the coaches downplay the importance of the now 67-game conference win streak, don’t think for a second it wasn’t on the mind of the players during the entire game.
“We were all down. It means a lot,” Stull said when asked about the comeback. “Some people say that we don’t think about the streak. But we think about it, and we didn’t want to be the team that lost it.”
From the Sept. 11-17, 2013, issue