The 2011 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Football State Championships are set to unfold on Friday and Saturday, November 25-26 at Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign. The Class 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A titles will be contested on Friday, with the Class 5A, 6A, 7A and 8A crowns to be decided on Saturday. The 2011 contests mark the 38th annual edition of the football state finals, the 11th season of the eight-class system and the 13th year with Memorial Stadium serving as the host.
DAKOTA INDIANS (11-2) vs. TUSCOLA WARRIORS (11-2)
Dakota looks to become the second team in a row from the Northwest Upstate lllini Conference (Lena-Winslow) to claim the Class 1A title. After losing to Forreston and Aquin in consecutive weeks in the regular-season by a combined score of 56-19, the Indians avenged both defeats in consecutive postseason rounds, downing Forreston in the quarterfinals (16-9) and Aquin in the semifinals (25-21). Junior Jake Apple is a two-way standout for Dakota, as he enters with 2,201 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns to go along with 37 tackles and four sacks from his linebacker spot.
Tuscola has established itself as one of the top programs in the state, earning its way back to the state championship game for the third season in a row and for the fifth time since 2006. The Warriors won state titles in 2006 and 2009, but were humbled in the championship game a year ago during their quest for a repeat. A lineage of top tier quarterbacks keep the Warriors coming back to Champaign and senior Phil Meyer has continued that tradition, throwing for 2,191 yards and 25 scores, while also adding a team-best 812 yards on the ground in 2011.
MORRISON MUSTANGS (12-1) vs. CASEY-WESTFIELD WARRIORS (12-1)
The Warriors of Casey-Westfield have proved their metal in reaching the Class 2A state championship for the second time since 2008, as the squad pitched a shutout in a 16-0 quarterfinal win over Williamsville, a team that averaged over 40 points per game in the regular-season, and then ended Maroa-Forsyth’s bid to reach state for a third straight season in the semis. At, 6-4 and 285 pounds, all-state senior tackle Patrick McCown is a force for the Warriors on both sides of the ball.
Morrison’s road back to Champaign was no easy task either, as the Mustangs avenged a 24-0 regular-season loss to defending state champ Newman Central Catholic with a 15-12 come-from-behind win in the quarterfinals. Morrison is making its second state final trip in school history and first since winning Class 2A with a 36-14 decision over Maroa-Forsyth in 2009. Senior running back Andy Schaver has rumbled for over 1,000 yards this season behind all-stater Logan Kuehl, who also stars on defense for the Mustangs.
AURORA CHRISTIAN EAGLES (12-1) vs. MT. CARMEL GOLDEN ACES (12-1)
Aurora Christian’s wide-open passing attack returns to the state finals for the second time in school history and first since 2008, where the Eagles fell to Bloomington Central Catholic 38-27 in the Class 4A title tilt. The Eagles find themselves in Class 3A in 2011 and own a regular-season victory over defending the Class 3A champ (Stillman Valley, 38-20), while the team’s lone loss came to a Montini team that will play for a third consecutive state title on Saturday (5A). Senior Quarterback Anthony Maddie has thrown for 3,706 yards and 50 touchdowns on the season.
The Golden Aces enjoy one of the finest football traditions in the state, having qualified for the postseason 33 times, while placing one state championship trophy and a trio of runner-ups in the trophy case along the way. Mt. Carmel has used a stable of running backs en route to rushing for 3,781 yards this season behind an offensive line that averages 6-0, 244 pounds. The Aces will feature senior fullback Dallas Clark, who enters with team-highs in carries (225), rushing yards (1,410) and rushing touchdowns (24) this season.
RICHMOND-BURTON ROCKETS (12-1) vs. ROCHESTER ROCKETS (11-2)
The Rockets rolled to a 14-0 record and the Class 4A state title a year ago and looked poised for a repeat bid in 2011 with the return of star quarterback Wes Lunt. However, Lunt broke a bone in his foot late in the summer and missed the first five games of the season. Undeterred, the Rockets managed a 4-1 start minus Lunt and have averaged 47 points per game, including 48.5 per game in the postseason, since he returned under center. Senior Zach Grant (118 receptions, 2,051 yards, 21 TD) is Lunt’s favorite target.
Richmond-Burton’s lone state final appearance prior to 2011 came in 1992, when the school downed Central A&M for a Class 2A title. The Rockets have been knocking on the door recently, reaching the semifinals in 2008 and 2009 and the quarterfinals a year ago, and now look to improve to 2-0 all-time in state final games. Jack Dechow is the key cog (1,078 yards, 13 TD) in a balanced rushing attack that will look to wear down opponents, but can also be explosive, as it was in a 40-28 semifinal win over defending 3A champ Stillman Valley.
JOLIET CATHOLIC ACADEMY HILLTOPPERS (11-2) vs. MONTINI CATHOLIC BRONCOS (11-2)
The Hilltoppers return to Champaign looking to add to their state-record 13 football state championships and will face the team that denied them their chance at number 14 two years ago. Joliet Catholic Academy (JCA) and Montini met in the 2009 title game, as Montini scored with 32 seconds remaining in the game and then converted a two-point conversion to win 29-28. JCA running back Malin Jones ran for 141 yards and two scores in the 2009 title game as a sophomore and now teams with junior Ty Isaac (2,114 yards, 36 TD) to create one of the state’s most dynamic backfields.
Montini’s bid for a third consecutive state championship featured an early setback when senior quarterback John Rohde was injured prior to the season opener, but the Broncos navigated a tough non-conference slate and have flourished since Rohde’s return. Record-setting wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp (78 receptions, 1,342 yards, 24 TD) evoked memories of his brother Christian's late game heroics against JCA in the 2009 title game when he hauled in the winning score on a 19-yard pass in the final two minutes of the Broncos semifinal win over Kaneland last week. Jordan Westerkamp has combined for four touchdown catches in his two previous state title games.
RICHWOODS KNIGHTS (10-3) vs. PRAIRIE RIDGE WOLVES (12-1)
The third time was the charm for a Prairie Ridge program that has been on the brink of reaching Champaign the past two seasons, but fell short in the semifinals in both 2009 and 2010 to the eventual Class 6A state champions. All-State offensive lineman Tom Evans clears the way for dual-threat quarterback Nick Nissan (1,177 passing yards, 785 rushing yards, 34 total TD), while senior linebacker and fellow all-stater Collin Corcoran (57 tackles, 7 sacks) leads the Wolves defense.
Its November Madness for a Richwoods program that is marking the return of a Peoria program to the football state finals for the first time since 1988 and for the fourth time ever overall. While Peoria may be well known for its high school hoops, Richwoods has a steep gridiron tradition that includes a pair of state championships in 1984 and 1988. The 2011 Knights overcame an 0-3 start against a rugged non-conference slate and found their identity in junior running back Kendrick Foster (2,362 yards, 30 touchdowns).
WHEATON WARRENVILLE SOUTH TIGERS (10-3) vs. BOYLAN CATHOLIC TITANS (13-0)
Wheaton Warrenville South (WWS) won back-to-back Class 7A titles in 2009 and 2010, but a third crown did not appear to be in the cards, as the team left record-setting quarterback Reilly O'Toole in Champaign after the 2010 championship and started the 2011 season by losing three of its first four games. A suffocating defense led by senior linebackers Adam Dansdill (89 tackles, 10 sacks) and Brandon Peterson (74 tackles, 13 sacks) has the Tigers back on the brink of a threepeat, as WWS has allowed under 10 points per game (9.2 ppg) in the postseason despite facing four programs that have all won state championships as recently as 2004.
Boylan football remerged on the state scene a year ago, making the school’s first state final appearance since 1975, and made a statement with a 48-19 win in the Class 6A championship game. The Titans have reloaded in 2011 behind a stifling defense led by DJ Zimmerman (53 tackles) and will look to become the class of a new a class, as the team was bumped into Class 7A this postseason. Boylan can become the second team in the eight-class era to win titles in consecutive seasons after moving up classes, matching Driscoll (3A in 2004, 4A in 2005). The Titans last loss came in October 2009, a 17-15 defeat to Wheaton North in the first round of the playoffs.
LOYOLA ACADEMY RAMBLERS (13-0) vs. BOLINGBROOK RAIDERS (12-1)
Many pundits would place Bolingbrook high on the list of top football programs in the state who have never won a state championship, but the Raiders are in position to rewrite history after qualifying for the state finals for the second time ever. The 1993 state final team fell 7-0 to Belvidere, although the 2011 edition will be tough to keep off the scoreboard thanks to dual-threat junior quarterback Aaron Brooks (2,733 total yards, 38 total TD), who has all-state lineman Robert Bain protecting him. The Raider defense will have to step up to replace All-American caliber linebacker Antonio Morrison, who was lost to a broken ankle in the quarterfinals.
After having its playoff run ended by eventual state champion Maine South in each of the past three seasons, including semifinal losses in 2009 and 2010, Loyola appeared to be ready to exorcise that demon in 2011 with one of its strongest teams yet. While another matchup with the three-time defending state champs never materialized, a chance for a perfect season and second state championship in school history remains in the balance. The 2011 Ramblers are anchored by all-state seniors on both sides of the ball in quarterback Malcolm Weaver (2,226 yards, 26 TD) and linebacker Eric Hauser. The veteran group starts nine seniors on offense and eight on defense.
University of Illinois
Friday, November 25
Class 1A - 10:00 a.m.
Tuscola vs. Dakota
Class 2A - 1:00 p.m.
Casey-Westfield vs. Morrison
Class 3A - 4:00 p.m.
Mt. Carmel vs. Aurora Christian
Class 4A - 7:00 p.m.
Rochester vs. Richmond-Burton
Saturday, November 26
Class 5A - 10:00 a.m.
Joliet Catholic Academy vs. Montini
Class 6A - 1:00 p.m.
Richwoods vs. Prairie Ridge
Class 7A - 4:00 p.m.
Wheaton Warrenville South vs. Boylan Catholic
Class 8A - 7:00 p.m.
Bolingbrook vs. Loyola Academy
Postgame press conferences will air LIVE on www.IHSA.tv
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