Hoping to learn a thing or two after last week's sluggish start in its playoff opener, IC Catholic Prep was looking to start well in Saturday's Class 3A second-round football matchup with visiting Paxton-Buckley-Loda.
As it turns out, the Knights really could not have started any better, nor could the top-ranked and unbeaten Knights have finished any better. IC Catholic Prep's defense forced a punt and an interception on the Panthers' first two possessions, and Jordan Rowell scored on touchdown runs of 23 and 2 yards as the Knights led 16-0 less than four minutes into the game on their way to a 65-0 win in Elmhurst.
"Obviously, it's always great to jump on the other team and last week we were a little slow in the first half," said senior Matt Sutton, whose interception of a tipped pass set up the Knights' second score. "We just wanted to come out ready to go and fire on all cylinders to start the game. Our coaches got us really ready. We watched a lot of film and our scout team gives us a great look all week and we ready to go."
Sutton also caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from fellow co-captain Luke Ricobene in the second quarter as the Knights scored three touchdowns in each of the first two quarters while building a 44-0 lead at the half. Ricobene completed his first 10 passes of the game and finished the first half 12 for 13 for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"Our kids were incredible at the start of the football game," IC Catholic Prep coach Bill Krefft said. "One of the things we talked about last week was that we didn't get off to the start we wanted. Our kids, early in that game tonight … talk about our captains, Jimmy Kenneally, Robert Vitek, Matt Sutton and Luke Ricobene, it was those four kids that kind of took over. The energy on the sidelines and from the fans was just incredible."
The Panthers, who came to town fresh off a 50-2 win in their playoff opener, have good size up front and have been piling up plenty of points the last two months. But on Saturday the Knights controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and the defense notched its seventh shutout of the year.
"That was a good football team," Krefft said of P-B-L. "They were huge up front, they had tremendous success all season on offense, and I think they were averaging around 50 points a game. But the defensive line with Ricky Mysliwiec, Chuck Hipskind and Michael Johnson inside really did an outstanding job, with Vitek and Jimmy, the ends, just doing a great job."
The defense was stout, Ricobene was sharp and Rowell added two more scores after his two quick strikes, finishing with 117 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 7 carries.
"We were a high-rolling team today," Rowell said. "We believe in pushing for touchdowns and keeping our defense off the field. But our defensive line was great. They might not have been bigger than their line but they outsmarted them. It doesn't matter whether we have Byron or Wilmington, we know we just have to play our game."
Next up, IC Catholic Prep will host No. 4 Wilmington.
Sutton, who had 5 catches for 95 yards, expects this team to keep on winning.
"We're 11-0 now but that doesn't mean anything," he said. "The ultimate goal is a state championship and we're not going to settle for anything less."