Features | Friday Night Drive

Looking more and more like ICCP-Princeton quarterfinal was for 3A state title

Football Notebook

IC Catholic's JP Schmidt (13) consoles members of the Princeton football team after IC Catholic defeated Princeton in overtime in the Class 3A Quarterfinal game on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022 in Princeton.

Many who attended the IC Catholic Prep/Princeton quarterfinal last week felt it was the 3A state championship game.

It’s looking more and more like it was.

After rallying for a 27-20 win in overtime over Princeton, IICP throttled defending state champ Byron, 35-0, in Saturday’s 3A semifinals. Byron beat the Knights, 15-14, in last year’s semifinals on the way to the state title.

Princeton coach Ryan Pearson, whose Tigers lost to the Knights in the quarterfinals for the second straight year, said he didn’t need to see the Byron-ICCP game to know the significance of the Tigers’ quarterfinal game.

“I knew our game with IC was going to be the state championship or the two best teams in the state,” he said. “It’s just too bad it had to happen in the quarters.”

Princeton senior Augie Christiansen, who told ICCP players to “Go win it,” after their loss to the Knights, said their game “most definitely” was for the state championship.

Of course, Williamsville (12-1) will have a say in who wins state. The No. 3-seeded Bullets beat No. 4 Tolono Unity 12-7 in the other semifinal Saturday, avenging a 28-7 quarterfinal loss to the Rockets last year. Williamsville beat Byron, 46-42, for the 2019 state championship.

Game time is 4 p.m. at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign.

Quick counts

* Gliatta rides again: Joey Gliatta, who was the surprise hero for ICCP in its win at Princeton, was up to his old tricks again Saturday. He rushed for 192 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Knights back to the state finals for the first time since winning three straight titles from 2016-18.

Before his breakout game at Princeton, Gliatta had only ran the ball six times in the Knights’ first six games.

* “We did it”: Former Bureau Valley coach Jason Kirby won his first state championship when he led his Biggsville West Central Heat to the 8-man State title Friday night, defeating Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio, 44-36, at Momouth College.

The first person Kirby looked for was his dad, Rick, and said, “We did it.” Both had tears streaming down their face.

Kirby, 49, led the Storm to a Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2004, losing to Addison Driscoll Catholic, 37-14, before departing for downstate Herrin, BV won State the next year under Dave Moore. Kirby has coached at several schools since.

* Forreston falls: Forreston, which knocked out St. Bede in a 1A first-round game, fell to Lena-Winslow, 38-16, in Saturday’s semifinals. Le-Win, the two-time defending state champ and winner of five overall, will meet Camp Point Central, which blasted No. 1 Ridgeview-Lexington, 44-8, at 10 a.m. Friday.

* Father knows best: Longtime Sacred-Heart Griffin coach Ken Leonard, who is retiring at season’s end, will get to coach for another game when his Cyclones rallied to defeat his son Derek’s Rochester Rockets, 56-42, in the 4A semifinals. SHG scored 35 unanswered points to punch its ticket to state.

Ken Leonard told Friday Night Drive’s Steve Soucie, “It feels great, but it feels horrible because that’s my son over there.”

The Leonards have won 13 state titles between them with Derek winning eight and Ken five.

Sacred-Heart Griffin, which beat Hall, 55-6, in the first round, will face No. 13 Providence Catholic at 7 p.m. Friday for the 4A title.

* Pearson tops Tigers wins: Pearson became the all-time winningest coach at Princeton this year, now with a 48-15 record (.762). He has also won the most playoff games with an 8-4 record. The late Randy Swinford went 5-2 in two playoff appearances.

* Ryan, Sycamore bow out in semis again: Joe Ryan’s Sycamore Spartans bowed out in the 5A semifinals for the second straight year, upset 10-7 by No. 11 LaGrange Park Nazareth. Ryan led Princeton to the 3A semifinals in 2002.