Another state title for ICCP to talk about
DEKALB -- Lazerick Eatman won't win a lot of talking contests. Where he excels is running the football.
"I just let my actions do it," Eatman said.
The IC Catholic running back's trademark field vision, dead stops, hesitation moves, cutbacks and flat-out sprints gained 237 yards and 4 touchdowns on Friday, tying Class 3A football title game records for rushing touchdowns and overall touchdowns scored.
The senior was far more interested in how it helped earn the Knights a second straight state championship, 35-0 over Pleasant Plains at Northern Illinois University's Huskie Stadium. IC Catholic (13-1) won its fourth title overall and second consecutive by shutout.
"I'm not really worried about the record, I was just worried about the ring. I wanted another one with my brothers. We went back to back, I'm going out the right way," said Eatman, who scored on a pair of 1-yard runs, one of 15 yards and a 9-yarder.
Pleasant Plains (10-4) trailed only 6-0 at halftime before the powerful Knights scored on four straight second-half possessions.
"When 22 (Eatman) gets loose he's hard to bring down in space, and I think that's what happened," said Cardinals coach Brody Walworth. "They found a couple ways to get him in some space and then we had trouble tracking him down from there."
Similar to other games in this playoff series, ICCP proved resilient against an opponent's best shot. Led by running back Nik Samson and quarterback Ben Reinert, Pleasant Plains owned the first quarter, but the Cardinals couldn't capitalize on Lucas Western's fumble recovery at the Knights' 23-yard line. ICCP's Max Cook intercepted the ball right back for the Knights.
"I thought that was a huge negative momentum play for us," Walworth said.
Another came after Pleasant Plains' Tristen Tewes' 74-yard, wind-aided punt pinned the Knights on their own 1-yard line. Eatman broke a run 56 yards, C.J. West hit Jacob Lytton for a 41-yard pass to the Cardinals' 1-yard line, and Eatman scored for the 6-0 edge at 9:27 of the second quarter.
"No one's head was down or anything," said ICCP right guard Dyan Packer. "We just knew that we could get out and we had to. We did. Lazerick just found a hole and went."
Pleasant Plains -- wide left on a 32-yard field goal try with 3:18 left before halftime -- never crept out of that hole.
Samson ran for 101 yards by halftime and finished with 108. The Cardinals outgained ICCP 164 yards to 131 by halftime, but the Knights eventually won that battle 359-155, and the defense didn't allow a second-half first down.
"We were a little undisciplined there for a couple series where we started just trying to do too much, and then our guys settled in and really did their job," said Knights coach Bill Krefft.
Starting with Lytton's 41-yard return of the second-half kickoff, Krefft liked how his club moved the ball coming out of halftime, though it ended with a punt -- West's rode the wind to Pleasant Plains' 1-yard line, turning the field. The Cardinals, unlike ICCP earlier, couldn't make it past their own 3-yard line on that possession.
"The defense stopped them, pinned them again and again, that really changed the game," West said.
Over eight offensive plays in the third quarter, ICCP scored 22 points. First, West faked a handoff to Eatman on a 20-yard touchdown keeper.
"Two very special players," said two-way tackle Ricky Mysliwiec.
Eatman broke runs of 44 and 46 yards to set up his 1- and 15-yard scoring bursts. The Knights led 28-0 after three quarters.
"You could say the defensive series on the 1-yard line changed the whole game," Krefft said. "That's what I would say is the actual changing point, but realistically it was the drive before on offense that we didn't finish that really got us back in our rhythm."
Eatman followed Mysliwiec from 9 yards out at 7:24 of the fourth quarter to cap the scoring. Khalil Saunders' interception with 5:39 to play allowed the Knights a dramatic resolution to their championship season.
Senior quarterback Luke Ricobene, who directed ICCP to the 2016 championship but tore his right ACL in Week 2, took the field for the first time since then, helming the victory formation.
"I trusted my brothers were gonna get me there," Ricobene said. "I knew the only chance I had to get back on the field was taking a knee at the end of the state championship game. I had faith in them and if felt great."