Immaculate Conception's school colors are blue and white. Saturday, those colors mixed with red the color of just about every one of the Knights' eyes at the end of their team's 41-21 defeat by top-rated Stillman Valley in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.
"They're really tough," Immaculate Conception senior running back Jose Godinez said. "They went to state last year, and they've won 25 in a row. It shows how good they are."
After a year out of the playoffs, the Knights returned to the postseason this year and worked to re-establish the school's tradition of playoff excellence.
"We're happy to be back in it," Immaculate Conception coach Mike Alberts said. "I think we're all a little stung right now. I don't think at any point this week we talked about the possibility of losing this game. But when you play a good team, somebody's got to lose."
The Knights made a game of it after falling behind 28-7 at halftime. A recovered fumble turned into a 29-yard Jose Godinez touchdown, and after a subsequent Godinez interception, Immaculate Conception had a chance to close to within one touchdown. Stillman Valley held at that point and then scored two more touchdowns to seal the victory.
"We talked about a few things we needed to change and we came out and came out pretty good," Godinez said. "It was just little tweaks here and there."
Stillman Valley's rushing attack was the key to the victory. The Cardinals ran for 378 of their 447 yards and all 6 touchdowns came on the ground.
"We got exposed in some key situations," Alberts said. "That happens some times. Hopefully, we'll learn from that and be better next year."
Adam Cox keyed Stillman Valley's offense. He scored 3 first-half touchdowns and rushed for 190 yards, including a back-breaking 84-yard run in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
"They're an outstanding football team, especially on defense," Alberts said. "I would like to think they're over there licking their wounds thinking, 'Man, IC's the most physical team we've played this year.' But you know what? They're better than us and they deserved to win today."
Immaculate Conception's own rushing attack moved the ball. Led by Godinez's 174-yard afternoon, the Knights gained 250 rushing yards.
"We worked hard all week and thought we were going to put up a better fight," Immaculate Conception senior Conor Hendricks said. "It's just not how it turned out. I thought we were rolling and going to turn things around in the second half. Things just weren't going our way today."
Godinez got the final touchdown of the afternoon, breaking outside and racing 60 yards with 1:48 to play. The senior finished with a 174-yard afternoon.
"I'm happy and I'm sad at the same time," Godinez said.
The Knights' first TD was a 5-yard fade to the corner of the end zone by quarterback Cody Kotlow to Tim Hipskind.