Blood, sweat and tears, but this time no St. Francis win
Rockford Boylan ended St. Francis' football season on Saturday, but it didn't negate the Spartans' promise or their achievement.
The 327 passing yards and 3 touchdowns by sophomore quarterback Tommy Rittenhouse and junior Mike Baffa could not derail No. 3 seed Rockford Boylan, which won the Class 5A second-round playoff game 34-21 in Rockford. Boylan (10-1) advanced to the 5A quarterfinals against No. 2 Sterling, a 55-12 winner over Brooks.
"These boys put their blood, sweat and tears into this program," said Rittenhouse, who helped St. Francis finish 8-3 after two straight 1-8 seasons. He completed 23 of 49 passes for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns.
In the Spartans' final two series Baffa threw for 75 yards with a late 30-yard score to back Henry Plamondon.
"We knew we could change the culture of St. Francis football," Rittenhouse said. "We've been down for the past two years. We fell short of where we wanted to be, but we definitely turned it around."
"So excited and so privileged to be able to play with a group of guys like this," said Spartans senior Joe Lang.
Two key second-half plays gave the Titans separation from St. Francis, which trailed 14-7 at halftime.
On St. Francis' first possession of the third quarter, the Spartans went for it on fourth-and-2 from their own 43-yard line. Boylan's Jack Peterson intercepted the pass and returned it 27 yards. On the next play Luke Bergstrom ran 21 yards for a touchdown.
In the fourth quarter St. Francis worked hard to go 71 yards and score on fourth-and-goal from Boylan's 13. Freshman Tyler Bishop caught Rittenhouse's pass with a defender all over him. Aubrey Quaranto's kick pulled St. Francis within 21-14 with 8:02 left to play.
The ensuing kickoff landed near the 20-yard line and rattled around until Dayvion Foreman corralled it at the 4. The junior returned it 96 yards down the left sideline.
"Dayvion has been working all year long to try and get a score from there, so it could not have come at a better time," said Boylan coach John Cacciatore, whose team quickly scored again to lead 34-14 with 4:46 left.
"Every time it seemed like we were getting a little momentum, Rockford Boylan did a great job of kicking us in the teeth and saying, no, we're going to stop it right here," said St. Francis coach Bob McMillen.
The Titans' De'Treyvion Malone ran for 171 yards and opened the scoring on a 39-yarder at 7:35 of the first quarter. St. Francis tied it on Bishop's 14-yard touchdown catch and a Quaranto kick. The glue-fingered Bishop caught 9 passes for 111 yards.
"I'm very proud of everyone here, my teammates," said St. Francis two-way lineman Dan Skold, like Lang a three-year starter. "I'm proud to have been on this team."