Close calls: 1995 a special year at IHSA state championship games

A look back at the IHSA's football title games from 25 years ago

In a high school football contest, the game clock runs for 48 minutes.

Sometimes it can seem like an eternity for that time run out, while on other occasions the time seems to be running at double speed. Either way, a regulation game isn't over until all of those 2,880 seconds have passed, and on the way some crazy things can happen.

That was certainly the case for the six title games played 25 years ago this weekend in the 1995 IHSA state championships at Illinois State University's Hancock Stadium. Five of those tilts were decided in the final three minutes, while the other saw a number of record-breaking performances.

In all, the games produced the second-lowest margin of victory [8.2] across the board for a championship weekend, topped only by the games the following year [7.5].

Here is a look back at how those games played out and the special moments that took place a quarter-century ago:

CLASS 1A: Carthage 45, Arcola 13

The Carthage Blueboys and Arcola Purple Riders both entered with perfect 13-0 records, so something had to give. After each club came up empty on its initial possession, Carthage running back Kenton Patrick broke loose for an 81-yard touchdown run to give his team the lead for good and begin his record-setting day.

"[Patrick] had a tremendous day running the ball, without a doubt," said Blueboys quarterback Joey Dion, who went on to play four years at Illinois College in Jacksonville and is currently the principal at Jacksonville High School. "We had lost in the second round of the playoffs the previous two seasons, but Carthage had finished second at state in 1984 and 1988, so that was always our goal, to win a state title.

"We wanted to be as successful as the teams before us."

Patrick finished the contest with 20 rushes for a then-state record 239 yards, four TDs and a trio of two-point conversions. In all, head coach Jim Unruh's Carthage squad, which piled up 500 yards rushing, broke or tied 13 team or individual records in the contest.

"Our line play was good that day like it had been all season, and our wing-T offense was clicking all game long," said Dion. "Kenton's early touchdown run really got us going, and everything from then on just fell into place."

CLASS 2A: Hampshire 20, Moweaqua Central A&M 18

The Hampshire Whip-Purs, with only 23 players on the roster, entered the season having not won a playoff game since 1979, but along with the Moweaqua Central A&M Raiders entered the title game with a 13-0 mark.

"I remember knowing we were prepared," said Hampshire quarterback Nick Terry, who went on to play one year at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisc., and is currently a head trader at JHL Capital Group LLC in Chicago. "We knew what [Central A&M] wanted to do, and we knew what we had to do."

Central A&M scored a touchdown with 3 minutes, 25 seconds to go in the fourth to climb to within a two-point conversion of tying the game. However, on the try for two, Hampshire 5-10 cornerback Paul Wleklinski blanketed Central 6-5 receiver Mike Root, forcing an offensive interference call.

"We had played Paxton-Buckley-Loda the week before, and they also had a tall, rangy wide receiver that throughout the season had used to pick up big first downs, two-point conversions ... plays when they needed it," Terry said. "A&M had a really strong runner and option play, so we were preparing to stop the quarterback and make him pitch the ball. I remember Paul saying prior to the play, 'I really think they are going to try and throw the ball to my guy, and if they do I'm just going to try and box him out of the end zone.' "

Hampshire then recovered the onside kick and converted a couple first downs to run out the clock.

"That was a very special time for all of us on that team, without a doubt, and an accomplishment we can be very proud of," said Terry. "We had to beat some very good teams to win it, but we did."

CLASS 3A: Hall 38, DuQuoin 32

The one-loss Hall Red Devils and head coach Gary Vicini found themselves in a seemingly insurmountable situation, down 32-22 with 2:51 to go against the undefeated Indians.

However, Red Devils fullback Nick Guerrini scored with 1:27 left and added a two-point conversion run to close the gap to just two. Then Hall recovered the ensuing onside kick — the first it had attempted all season — at the DuQuoin 44 to set up the improbable ending.

"It was a bad kick, but maybe looking back, it was perfect," said running back/receiver Eric Bryant, who is currently the athletic director and assistant principal at his alma mater. "It was a line-drive kick right at one of their players, but he missed it. It bounced right off his chest and just laid there in front of him.

"It also just happened to be right where I was at. I dove on it, and everyone else just piled on."

Five plays later, including a 22-yard pass play from QB Jeff Turigliatti to Nick Heuser that moved the ball to the 5, Guerrini punched it in from the 2 with 20 seconds left to complete what DuQuoin head coach Al Martin said was the greatest ballgame he'd ever seen.

"We tried to give it to Eric on the outside a couple times, but they just shut that down," said Guerrini, currently the head football coach at Hall. "We called a timeout, got in the huddle, and I think everyone agreed that they wanted me to get the ball.

"I have to be honest, I was prepared to run through a brick wall in that situation, but on the play our offensive line opened up a hole that I could have drove through backwards."

CLASS 4A: Providence 22, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin 17

The undefeated and defending 4A champ Providence Celtics, who entered the game on a 27-game winning streak, trailed the one-loss Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin Cyclones, 17-7, through three quarters.

Providence QB Robert Cruz scored on a 3-yard run with 3:35 to go and then hit Ed Olszta for a two-point conversion to make it a 17-15.

"They really punched us in the mouth first, and they were the only team that did that to us that year," said Cruz, who went on to play at the University of Dubuque and Millikin and is currently a general contractor in Chicago. "We had a very good, senior-filled offensive line, but they just weren't having a very good day through three-and-a-half quarters.

"But as [the offense] took the field and huddled up down 10 with around six minutes to go, you could just see in their eyes that they were ready to go from that point on."

On the ensuing SHG drive, the Celtics' Bill Grogan stripped the ball from the Cyclones' running back, and teammate Shane Flynn recovered it at the SHG 23. Four plays later, Providence RB Louis Medina ran it in from the 4 with just 46 seconds left.

"I said, 'We are going to call the same running play three times in a row, and it's up to you guys if we are winning this game or not,' " recalled Cruz. "We ran '52 blast' on the left side three times in a row, and Louie scored on the third try.

"To be honest, we were actually playing for the field goal, but things worked out I guess."

CLASS 5A: Maine South 31, Chicago Mount Carmel 28

With just 31 seconds left in regulation in a tie game, the Maine South Hawks were facing a fourth-down situation at the Caravan's 42-yard line.

Maine South kicker/wide receiver Brian Schmitz, who had made a game-winning field goal in overtime to beat Oak Park Fenwick in the semifinals the previous week, came up slightly short on his 58-yard attempt, but a roughing the kicker call gave him and his team a second chance.

"I wanted to do it again," said Schmitz to the media after the game.

After the penalty and a quick run set the ball at the 20, Schmitz drilled a 37-yarder with 8 seconds remaining to clinch the championship.

Besides the memorable field goal, Schmitz was perfect on four extra-point boots, caught four passes, including a pair of TD passes from 22 and 44 yards, and also prevented a Mount Carmel score when he recovered his own blocked punt and got off another punt.

Maine South quarterback John Schacke had a record-setting day after completing 13-of-28 passes for 280 yards and a trio of scores, including an 83-yard strike to Ben Wilson in the second quarter.

The late heroics after five ties came after Tim Gavin's 10-yard run with 7:42 left in the fourth had given Maine South its first lead, followed by Mount Carmel's Russ Calabrese's score from 7 yards out with 3:13 re-tied the contest.

Both teams finished the season 12-2.

CLASS 6A: Wheaton-Warrenville South 22, Naperville Central 21

In what was the first title-game matchup between conference opponents in history, the Wheaton-Warrenville South Tigers [12-2] met DuPage Valley Conference rival Naperville Central [13-1]. The teams had met in the regular season, with the Redhawks earning a 21-16 victory.

With 2:13 left to go, Naperville Central quarterback Tim Lavery's 27-yard scoring pass to Todd Grotbeck cut Wheaton-Warrenville South's lead to 22-21. Going for two and the possible lead late, Lavery pitched the ball to halfback Jim Tumilty, who broke toward the line before stopping and lofting a pass intended for Brad Grulke. However, the Tigers' Tom Schweighardt stayed with Grulke and leaped at the last second to knock the ball away to deny the go-ahead points.

"He [Tumilty] has the option to run or pass on that play," Naperville Central head coach Joe Bunge told the media. "We've been having trouble kicking extra points, and we felt going for two would be our best chance. It just didn't work out,"

"You can't ignore Tumilty, so people were running up to him," said Wheaton-Warrenville South linebacker Kevin Sampson after the game. "[Schweighardt] had the state of mind to stay with the receiver. It was a great play."

Lavery finished the game going 19-of-27 for 232 yards and a pair of TDs, while Grotbeck caught five passes for 80 yards. Wheaton-Warrenville South quarterback Tim Brylka ran for 108 yards on 14 carries and also threw for 48 yards.

Brian E Hoxsey

I worked for 25 years as a CNC operator and in 2005 answered an ad in The Times for a freelance sports writer position. I became a full-time sports writer/columnist for The Times in February of 2016. I enjoy researching high school athletics history, and in my spare time like to do the same, but also play video games and watch Twitch.