IC Catholic Prep's state championship run ends at three
By playoff seed it was no upset. By immensity of accomplishment, it absolutely was.
Ending No. 3 seed IC Catholic Prep's playoff winning streak at 17 games, No. 2 Richmond-Burton beat the three-time defending state champion 24-14 in Saturday's Class 4A quarterfinal in Richmond.
Richmond-Burton (12-0) advances to face No. 1 Coal City, a 25-7 winner over St. Francis. Counting Bishop McNamara, which dropped its 4A contest to Murphysboro, the Metro Suburban Blue went 0-3 on Saturday.
Richmond-Burton, its maroon uniforms caked with the mud that darkened IC Catholic's bright whites before the second quarter -- and made cutting nearly impossible -- got payback from last season's 28-9 semifinal loss to the Knights.
"It's so nice to get sweet revenge from last year. It's nice to avenge the seniors from last year that really wanted that, who were good players and good people," said Rockets back Dalton Wood, who ran for 121 yards and secured victory on a 1-yard touchdown run with 6.2 seconds to play.
ICCP (10-2) had prepped for the grass field by practicing on a snowy strip of natural turf at Plunkett Park, but on game day the Rockets ran for 247 yards to the Knights' 93.
"I think in these conditions you're just trying to ground and pound and grind out first downs. I think both teams went back and forth," said ICCP linebacker Kevin Cooke, who made 11 tackles.
"They're a great team, well coached, and they got us. A couple times (this season) we started out a little slow and I think that just came back to hurt us in the end," he said.
This was one of those times. Richmond-Burton used good field position to take a 14-0 lead on its first two possessions.
ICCP countered with its best drive, 82 yards, to pull within 14-7 on the last play of the first quarter. Somehow averting 6-foot-8, 332-pound nose tackle Trace Schneider, Kyle Franklin ran 20 yards untouched behind center Dan Sadkowski and guards A.J. Howard and Nick Niecikowski. Tom Sloan added the kick.
"Just read the holes, followed my linemen," said Franklin, who ran for 52 yards. "It's just north and south. That was my full mindset throughout the game."
After a taffy pull second quarter Richmond-Burton came out of halftime with a fine drive. It ended in Nick Legnaioli's surprising 35-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead and also sidelined Franklin and Co. for 6:23.
"I think we got our run game established again, which we needed to do," said Rockets coach Mike Noll. "Keep their offense off the field and pound the rock a little bit."
ICCP gained traction on quarterback Danny Cronin's 34-yard play-action touchdown pass to still-clean Justin Hall down the middle of the field.
Sloan made it 17-14 at 1:34 of the third quarter, but between Logan Hutson's second interception of the game and each richly celebrated first-down run by Wood or Legnaioli, who ran for 112 yards and a 34-yard touchdown, the home team salted it away.
Cronin noted the "very real" brotherhood he'd found at ICCP since transferring in his junior year, while coach Bill Krefft tipped his cap.
"Winningest senior class that we've ever had, three straight titles and a quarterfinal appearance," Krefft said. "You can only get two games better than that, so if you look at it that way, credit to our kids."