St. Francis tuned up for perhaps its biggest game of the season with a dominant display of football against Chicago Christian on Friday.
With a showdown against four-time defending state champ Montini looming next Friday, the Spartans rolled to an impressive 49-0 victory over the host Knights in Palos Heights.
Quarterback Zach Prociuk led the way for St. Francis (3-0) with 35-yard touchdown passes to both Ryan Benton and Adam Hart. The junior also ran one in from 11 yards out.
"Zach is really improving as a quarterback," said St. Francis coach Greg Purnell. "We are really happy with him."
Prociuk wasn't the only player to benefit from the punishing offensive line. Tailback James Butler had touchdown runs of 82 and 3 yards to finish with 93 yards on only 4 carries while fullback T.J. Jackson busted one up the middle for a 50-yard touchdown run. Backup quarterback Clint Bobowski ran a keeper 50 for a score too. The ground game piled up 324 yards.
"The beast in the backfield -- that is what we call them," Prociuk said. "It is hard to not give them the ball when they are back there. With JB running behind TJ, it is phenomenal. The offensive line blocks every time. They are fast. They are big. They move the ball and move the piles."
Chicago Christian (1-2) stopped the Spartans on their first drive but couldn't keep that going. St. Francis led 21-0 after the first quarter and 49-0 at the half, after which the starters got some rest.
"Once they opened up, they played really well and we struggled to hang on," said Chicago Christian coach Jim Bolhuis. "Obviously the running back and fullback are awesome but what was impressive was the other kids stepped up. Their receivers did great. The quarterback played well.
"They did not sit there and feed the monster. They played all their kids and did well. That was the killer for us -- having everybody on their team click."
The Knights never got much going on offense. St. Francis got stellar defensive play from numerous players including linebackers Chris Smith and Mike Riley. Jackson, who also plays defensive line, combined with fellow D-lineman Joe Keefer to sack Chicago Christian quarterback Christian Bolhuis for a big loss. Cornerback Joe Connelly also picked off a pass.
While the score was lopsided, playing the Knights helped the Spartans get ready for the Broncos.
"They run a very similar offense to Montini," Prociuk said. "We knew that coming in so our defense worked really hard this week on getting down the key aspects. We had a good week of practice. We came really well prepared and executed."
Added Purnell, "We will enjoy this one."