Driscoll wins 7th straight state football championship
CHAMPAIGN - "The best of the best."
That may have been rough for Driscoll coach Mike Burzawa to admit since he was a member of the 1991 Highlanders' perfect 14-0 championship football team.
Friday night, though, after Driscoll beat Bloomington Central Catholic 48-24 to win the Class 4A state championship - Driscoll's unprecedented seventh straight title - Burzawa placed this perfect 2007 squad at the top.
"How they overcame adversity, everything they went through this entire season, if you look at the numbers what we did to teams in the playoffs it was absolute clinic," he said.
"There's no doubt in my mind this group is the best of the best. No doubt in my mind."
Topping the adversity was the Nov. 7 death of assistant varsity head coach Mike Loconsole, to whom the Highlanders dedicated their season. After accepting the state trophy, Driscoll (14-0) presented the game ball to wife Maripat Loconsole and their two daughters.
Offensive genius Loconsole would have appreciated what the Highlanders did on Memorial Stadium's green turf. Driscoll's 430 yards rushing set a new Class 4A title game record.
Quarterback David Schwabe ran 18 times for 238 yards to set another 4A title record, and fellow all-state pick Tim Franken, who had 17 carries for 159 yards and 5 touchdowns, snapped not only the title game rushing record of 3 but also pass the 4 overall touchdowns scored by Burzawa in the 1991 championship.
"It's definitely an honor breaking this guy's record," Franken said. "I thank him for allowing me to get the ball inside the goal line to get those touchdowns, because he could have given it to other guys who would have scored. And I thank the offensive line."
Besides the open field running of Franken and Schwabe - whose 2 interceptions at free safety, one he returned 45 yards for a touchdown, left him 1 shy of the state record at 27 - offensive linemen Kyle Sanders, Vinny Miceli, Andrew O'Reilly, Anthony Arena and Mike Labadessa caved in a Saints defense that had allowed just 629 yards rushing on the season.
"We practiced against the defense that they were going to come out in," Sanders said. "We knew what they were going to come out in, and then we just executed."
Before they could roll, Bloomington Central Catholic (13-1) forced a fumble then hit Driscoll with its first deficit in these playoffs, 7-0 on a 70-yard pass from Adam Rebholz to Javier Safford.
"It was my fault because I fumbled and then the next play I got beat deep and they scored," Schwabe said. "That was tough. I couldn't let myself get down, and let the team down. They've looked at me for a lot of things this year."
Like his first interception, on Bloomington Central's next possession. That led to Schwabe's 94-yard touchdown run on a draw play - another Class 4A title game record.
Franken touchdown runs of 60 and 8 yards gave the Highlanders a 21-7 lead late in the second half, but Rebholz led an effective 2-minute drill that culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Safford to cut Driscoll's lead to 21-14 at the half.
"Yeah, I thought we had a chance, no doubt," Saints coach Bobby Moews said. "We just had to find a way to stop them."
That never happened. Michael Fenger's 37-yard field goal pulled Bloomington Central within 21-17 at 7:41 of the third, but Driscoll answered with a Franken 3-yard touchdown run and then Schwabe's weaving 45-yard interception return to build a 35-17 lead late in the third quarter.
A 9-yard touchdown run by Ryan Waldron only staved off the inevitable, as on Driscoll's last two possessions Franken added touchdown runs of 3 and 13 yards.
"They were the best team we've played so far in the playoffs," said linebacker Kevin Palermo. "They gave us a great game. They came out hitting, we came out hitting. They put up a good first score, but we came back and just kept playing our game and came out on top."
At the podium, Burzawa said: "We did this in honor of 'Coach Loc.' It's been the power of the spirit."
Driscoll state championships through the years
Class 4A: Driscoll 48, Bloomington Central Catholic 24
Class 4A: Driscoll 35, Breese Mater Dei 0
Class 4A: Driscoll 42, Newton 7
Class 3A: Driscoll 37, Bureau Valley 14
Class 4A: Driscoll 37, Prairie Central 21
Class 4A: Driscoll 42, Mount Carmel 0
Class 4A: Driscoll 42, Mount Carmel 41 (2 OT)