Three area teams have shot at going to state

By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter

In the past, as Rockford Boylan was winning two state championships, they could be called dominant. Looking to the future, as the sophomore and freshman teams struggled, they could be called down.

But one thing is for certain at this point. You can call the Boylan Titans football team resilient. And they are displaying the heart of a champion during their run through the IHSA Class 6A playoffs.

The Boylan Titans used two rushing touchdowns from quarterback Demry Croft, as well as a 60-yard touchdown pass to Brock Stull, to overcome a 17-7 halftime deficit against Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge and win 21-17, setting up a home game Saturday, Nov. 23, at 1 p.m. against Batavia, with the winner getting a trip to the championship game.

This was the second week in a row that Boylan has had to overcome a halftime deficit. Last week, it was 3-0 against Cary Grove. In both games, Boylan spent much of the first half looking lost on both sides of the ball.

In the second half, however, Boylan has clicked on all cylinders, getting timely plays from Croft on offense, and getting timely turnovers on defense every step of the way.

Under Head Coach John Cacciatore, Boylan has shown the ability to come back on multiple occasions. This is a team and a program that has a lot of heart.

Last season, against Machesney Park Harlem, the Titans trailed at the half before coming back to win. In last year’s playoffs, Boylan trailed to Algonquin Jacobs early before coming back, and had the punt return as time expired against Oak Park Fenwick to come back and win.

This season, the Titans found themselves down to Rockton Hononegah 20-0 at the half, and were down to potentially their last play on a fourth and 10 at their own 20 with just under 2 minutes left trailing against Belvidere North.

But under coach Cacciatore, this team just does not quit.

When the Titans were winning the back-to-back titles, more often than not they appeared to be far and away the best team on the field. Even if it was not far and away, they were still the best. That team rarely trailed over two years, let alone came close to losing.

What this team lacks in talent as compared to those teams, however, they make up for in heart. They are always in the right place at the right time, especially when things are tight. And it happens far too often for it to just be a coincidence.

Much will be written leading up to their semifinal match-up against Batavia about what the Titans’ chances are to get to their third title game in four years. Despite being the top seed, playing at home and the only undefeated team in Class 6A, Boylan will very likely be the underdog, according to most publications.

But go against this team at your own risk. They seem to almost relish the role, no longer the dominant overlord, but now the overlooked champion that still looks like they have something to prove.

For the first time in a long time, the city of Rockford will have two teams playing in the semifinals with a chance to go down state.

Rockford Lutheran fell behind 24-14 before coming back to knock off previously undefeated Harvard 28-24 to advance to the IHSA Class 4A semifinals.

The Crusaders will be traveling to Geneseo, where they will play Saturday, Nov. 23, at 1 p.m.

Geneseo was picked by many before the playoffs as one of the favorites in 4A, so their presence here is not unexpected. But Lutheran has won two straight that many thought they would not, both against Harvard and Rochelle, and are on a roll as they enter the game.

The key for Lutheran will be the health of James Robinson. The sophomore running back had a quiet game for him, just barely cracking 100 yards against Harvard, while battling an ankle injury. Quarterback Kendall Lawson stepped up in his place with two key touchdowns late. Both will need to be at their best for Lutheran to get down state.

Lutheran is also not the only Big Northern West team with a chance to go down state. In Class 3A, Stillman Valley revenged a regular-season loss, scoring twice late to take down previously undefeated Winnebago 34-20.

The Cardinals will travel to defending state champion Aurora Christian, where they will play Saturday, Nov. 23, at 5 p.m.

From the Nov. 20-26, 2013, issue

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