Koelblinger, Prairie Ridge run over Deerfield
Prairie Ridge's Kyle Koelblinger was happy to get out of the mud.
Koelblinger, who struggled to stay upright on a sloppy, saturated field last week, took the handoff on the second play from scrimmage on Deerfield's turf and was off to the races. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound fullback dashed 41 yards to the end zone for his first of five first-half scores.
Koelblinger didn't slow down from there, running for 244 yards on nine carries to lead the No. 1-seeded Wolves past No. 2-seeded Deerfield, 49-16, Saturday in the teams' Class 6A semifinal.
Prairie Ridge (12-1), which won back-to-back 6A titles in 2016 and 2017, advances to the state championship against East St. Louis at Northern Illinois University's Huskie Stadium on Nov. 30 in DeKalb.
East St. Louis (13-0) beat Glenwood, 50-28, in the 6A southern bracket semifinal.
Deerfield didn't have an answer for Koelblinger, who had touchdown runs of 41, 2, 64 and 62 yards in the first quarter.
"That was pretty stellar," Wolves coach Chris Schremp said. "He's been kind of grinding it out on our muddy field, and we've been waiting to see him really break out some long runs. Knowing we had a good track, it was fun to see him get loose, use his speed and really show what he can do."
Koelblinger, making only his third start at fullback after a season-ending injury to junior Carter Evans in a first-round win over Grayslake North, gashed the Warriors' defense for 190 yards and four scores in the first 12 minutes.
He added his fifth touchdown with 7:02 left in the second quarter, outracing Deerfield again, this time for 54 yards.
"That kid is lightning," senior linebacker Sam Ripple said. "I've been playing with him for awhile, and he's always been fast. There's always been something special about him. He's always able to move and shift so easy."
Prairie Ridge finished with 328 yards on the ground as Deerfield (10-3) could not slow down Koelblinger or the Wolves' triple-option attack.
"Like we said earlier this week, it felt like we were taking ankle weights off," Koelblinger said of running on the artificial turf at Adam's Field. "I think that really showed with the big push our offensive line got. They created some giant holes. It was all about one cut and getting up field."
Prairie Ridge quarterback Connor Lydon added a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Lydon threw one pass, a 19-yard score to senior Taidhgin Trost with 3:24 to go in the first half, giving the Wolves a 49-0 lead.
Deerfield coach Steve Winiecki said Koelblinger really stood out on film.
"I told (Schremp) he's my favorite player not on our side," Winiecki said. "PR jumped on us and the snowball started rolling downhill from there. They're a great program. They're the gold standard."
Schremp lauded the play of his defense. Deerfield was held to minus-3 yards rushing in the first half and finished with 38. Warriors quarterback Ryan Nagelbach went 13-of-27 passing for 185 yards. Adam Pottinger added 114 yards receiving on seven catches, including a 42-yard score.
Linebacker Matthew Loucks made two interceptions in the first half to set up two scores for Prairie Ridge.
"They almost made (Nagelbach) look average today, because our guys were flying around," Schremp said. "They are such an athletic group. It's fun to watch when those guys are clicking."
Now, the Wolves will face their toughest test against an East St. Louis team that averages over 51 points a game.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," said senior offensive lineman Riley Smith, who also played in the state championship in 2017. "It's the last game with my brothers. I can't wait."