Scouting the Class 4A championship football game
By Dave Oberhelman
Class 4A championship
No. 1 IC Catholic Prep (13-0) vs. No. 3 Bishop McNamara (12-1)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
Scouting IC Catholic: Promoted to Class 4A by the Illinois High School Association success adjustment after winning the last two Class 3A titles -- by a cumulative 78-0 score -- the Knights can capture a third level. They won in Class 3A in 2002, and in Class 2A in 2008. Starting this season by dismantling Belleville Althoff and Joliet Catholic in Weeks 1-2 and winning eight times under a running clock with six shutouts, ICCP rolled to a fourth straight Metro Suburban Conference divisional title and enters Friday on a 25-game winning streak. In its 20th playoff appearance ICCP is 4-0 in championship games.
Scouting Bishop McNamara: Not since Aurora Christian beat ICCP in the 2012 and 2013 playoffs has a team handled the Knights as well as "Bishop Mac." Still, after the Fightin' Irish won three straight times starting in 2014, including a 2015 3A semifinal, they've lost the last three. Leaving the Chicago Catholic League to join the Metro Suburban Blue this year -- yep, this game pits conference rivals -- McNamara had ICCP on the ropes in Week 4 before losing 21-20 on a 50-yard pass with 16 seconds left. That couldn't help but inform the Irish's 52-42 semifinal win over seven-time state champion Rochester.
Road to the championship: IC Catholic beat No. 16 Raby 49-8, No. 9 Stillman Valley 31-0, No. 5 Marengo 49-27 and No. 3 Richmond-Burton 28-9. Bishop McNamara beat No. 14 Richland County 59-18, No. 6 Murphysboro 49-14, No. 10 Effingham 42-35 and No. 4 Rochester 52-42.
Coaches: ICCP coach Bill Krefft, a 2003 graduate of the school and former Illinois High School Football Coaches Association All State guard and linebacker, is 67-16 through seven seasons. He has been part of Knights title teams as a player for the late Bob Cozzi (2002), as an assistant coach under Bill Schmidt (2008), and as a head coach.
Bishop McNamara coach Rich Zinanni has led all 35 of its playoff runs, the first in 1975. A 1965 graduate of the school, his 44-year record is 352-139, third all-time in IHSA football wins. An IHSFCA and Chicago Catholic League Coaches Association hall of famer, Zinanni takes the Irish into their ninth title game, winning in 1982, 1985-87 and 2015.
Probable starting offenses:
IC Catholic Bishop McNamara
Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Khalil Saunders 6-2 185 Sr. QB Tyler Hiller 5-11 185 Jr.
Kyle Franklin 5-9 175 So. RB Tyshon King 5-10 180 Sr.
Jalen Bates 6-0 165 So. WR/FB Owen Jackson 6-1 180 Jr.
Jake Lytton 6-0 177 Sr. WR Wilson Netherton 5-11 175 Sr.
Ryan Malek 5-9 170 Sr. WR Peyton Gerberding 6-1 175 Sr.
Khali Saunders 6-4 220 Sr. WR/TE Brandon Courtney 6-1 200 Jr.
Michael Johnson 6-0 245 Sr. LT David Smith 6-2 265 Sr.
Declan Barney 5-10 195 Sr. LG Nick Mahnke 5-10 205 Sr.
Ryan Kenneally 6-0 220 Sr. C Liam Bertrand 5-10 225 Sr.
David Vargas 6-1 250 Sr. RG T.J. Nehls 5-10 210 Sr.
Ricky Mysliwiec 6-3 310 Sr. RT Isaac Ruder 6-6 265 Jr.
Tom Sloan 5-7 145 Jr. K Preston Lade 5-10 170 Sr.
Probable starting defenses:
IC Catholic Bishop McNamara
Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Kevin Akins 6-1 245 Jr. DE Caleb Smith 6-0 180 So.
Koby Reed 5-11 310 Jr. DT/NT Andrew Steffes 5-6 150 Sr.
Ricky Mysliwiec 6-3 310 Sr. DT Nick Viglia 6-3 225 Jr.
Corteis Draper 6-2 195 Jr. DE Brandon Courtney 6-1 200 Jr.
Khali Saunders 6-4 220 Sr. LB Damien Thornton 5-10 178 Jr.
Kevin Cooke 5-11 195 Jr. LB Owen Jackson 6-1 180 Jr.
Dom Krepulec 6-0 200 Jr. LB Dorian Autman 5-11 215 Sr.
Khalil Saunders 6-2 185 Sr. SS Dimond Brooks 5-8 175 Sr.
Ryan Malek 5-9 170 Sr. FS Jacob Ramirez 5-8 155 Sr.
Chauncey Lee 5-10 160 So. CB Ethan Perakis 5-11 190 Sr.
Max Cook 5-11 165 Jr. QB Manny Harris 5-9 165 So.
Khalil Saunders 6-2 185 Sr. P Peyton Gerberding 6-1 175 Sr.
When IC Catholic has the ball: The Knights average 44 points and 436 yards using a spread offense favoring zone read. Franklin has run for 2,151 yards, 35 touchdowns, his official 338 yards rushing (and 6 touchdowns) against Marengo the most in the Krefft era. Khalil Saunders adds 535 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns. Saunders has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,370 yards, 16 touchdowns, 5 interceptions -- 3 picks last week when Richmond-Burton led 9-0 at halftime. Week 4 touchdown hero Lytton owns team highs of 32 catches and 499 yards, plus 4 touchdowns, with Malek at 21 receptions. Khali Saunders, Khalil's Purdue-bound twin, has a game-breaking 300 yards receiving with 7 touchdowns, 23 yards a catch.
Allowing 15 points and 207 yards on average, McNamara will give up size to IC's offensive line, anchored by Kenneally and averaging 244 pounds. That hasn't much hampered the Irish, many of whom, like nose tackle Steffes, are wrestlers bringing leverage and quickness. Brooks and Ramirez play like linebackers with 122 and 104 tackles, respectively, while linebacker Logan Johnson added 67 tackles with 5 sacks and 4 interceptions. The Irish didn't have Thornton the first meeting against ICCP. Outstanding back King will play in the secondary if needed. McNamara intercepted 13 passes and recovered 9 fumbles, contributing to a plus-10 turnover ratio.
When Bishop McNamara has the ball: Averaging 45 points and 400 yards a game, whether running Pro-I or spread offense "we are all power," Zinanni said. Four senior linemen paced King's program-record 47 touchdowns on top of 2,242 yards rushing. He adds 368 receiving yards, 4 scores. Brooks and Jackson have combined for 832 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns. Down the stretch Hiller has opened things up via the pass against foes poised to stop King. Averaging 28 yards a completion, Hiller has 1,913 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, 5 interceptions. With King and Harris complementary receivers, Gerberding averages 33 yards on his 22 receptions, with 13 touchdowns.
IC Catholic's 4-3 scheme allows a paltry 8.5 points a game. Downhill tackler Cooke will smash anything between the hash marks, credited with 178 tackles, 79 more than runner-up Krepulec. Lee has 4 of the Knights' 16 interceptions; senior cornerback Steven Crady may bolster the unit after missing several games to injury. Khalil Saunders calls the secondary and brother Khali makes big plays plus 73 tackles. It all starts with an outstanding, deep defensive line. Mysliwiec is both brawler and technician, Reed a force and in addition to the starters listed, sacks and hurries leader Johnson and 6-1, 225-pound sophomore A.J. Howard impact. Tackling King in space is the goal.
Intangibles: McNamara will be primed to avenge its Week 4 loss. Lade gives the Irish the edge in the kicking game, 3 of 4 on field goals with a long kick of 41 yards. Despite differing offensive schemes both teams like to do the same thing -- run the football. We'll see what new wrinkles appear. Familiar foes, yes, but they've never played for all the marbles. "We've never had one for who is the best," Krefft said.
-- Dave Oberhelman