Illinois High School Football News

IHSA Class 4A state preview: Sacred Heart Griffin vs. Providence

Providence quarterback Lucas Proudfoot (2) keeps the ball during their Class 4A semifinal game against St. Francis in Wheaton on Friday, Nov. 19. 2022.

Class 4A pits a pair of teams that can easily count themselves among the royalty of Illinois high school football programs.

After this state championship weekend, just five programs will have achieved at least 12 trophies in IHSA football. Both Providence (14 after Friday’s result) and Sacred Heart Griffin (12 after Friday’s result) are on that list.

Only Joliet Catholic (19), Mount Carmel (will get its 19th this weekend) and East St. Louis (will get its 14th this weekend) have as many or more.

It will also mark the end of one of the storied coaching careers in IHSA history. Sacred Heart Griffin’s Ken Leonard will retire at the conclusion of Friday night’s championship game. He is the state’s all-time leader in coaching victories.

Here’s a closer look at the two teams squaring off in the Class 4A title game.

Sacred Heart Griffin (13-0)

Head coach: Ken Leonard (419-80, 43 years)

Last state title game appearance: 2021, Lost to Joliet Catholic, 56-27

Path to state

defeated Spring Valley Hall, 55-6

defeated Waterloo, 28-16

defeated Murphysboro, 51-13

defeated Rochester, 56-42

Offensive stalwart

Ty Lott, QB: Few dual quarterbacks are equally as dangerous in both facets, but Lott definitely is the rare signal caller. Lott has poise in the pocket and the recognition skills to realize he’s got plenty of weapons to choose from and doesn’t need to force the ball any one place.

Defensive stalwart

Cory West, LB: West really likes to mix it up and has an affinity for getting himself in the right place. If you try to attack the heart of the field against the Cyclones, West is probably going to have something to say about it.

The wildcard

Madixx Morris, WR/DB: Morris is capable of being an impact player on whichever side of the football he lines up on. In Sacred Heart Griffin’s semifinal game at Rochester, Morris picked off a pass, switched sides and caught a touchdown pass in less than a minute.

Stat book

Friday night’s game will be Leonard’s 500th game that he has coached. He’s had one losing season in his entire coaching career.

• In the one game where Sacred Heart Griffin was threatened this season – a second-round game against Waterloo – Leonard missed the contest with illness.

• Sacred Heart Griffin has allowed 156 points this season, but 69 of those points were scored by Rochester in the two meetings between the two power programs. The Cyclones didn’t allow more than 16 points in any game that didn’t involve Rochester.

The skinny

The Cyclones would like nothing more than to send out their legendary coach with a state championship, which would be the sixth in program history. They appear to have all the pieces in place to do just that. Sacred Heart Griffin has been challenged on very few occasions this season. On the few occasions it did occur, the Cyclones responded ferociously.

Providence (9-4)

Head coach: Tyler Plantz (9-4, first season)

Last state title game appearance: 2014, defeated Cary-Grove 31-28 (Class 7A)

Path to state

defeated Wheaton Academy, 17-3

defeated Joliet Catholic, 24-14

defeated Richmond-Burton, 31-17

defeated Wheaton St. Francis, 17-14

Offensive stalwart

Lucas Proudfoot, QB: Proudfoot has developed into exactly the leader Plantz envisioned. He doesn’t necessarily worry about posting gaudy statistical numbers, but rather is more consumed by keeping drives going by whatever means necessary.

Defensive stalwart

Mason Santiago, LB: Santiago almost never seems to leave the field and has the uncanny knack for always being around the football. If there’s a big play to be made, Santiago seems to be a part of it.

The wildcard

Gavin Hagan, DB: Sooner or later, Hagan is going to make a difference for the Celtics. And it could come from anywhere. Hagan tends to pop up on both sides of the football, making plays and often comes through with a pivotal play on special teams.

Stat book

Providence played defending state champions in three consecutive games this season, defeating Fenwick (5A) while losing to Wheaton North (7A) and Joliet Catholic (4A). The Celtics would later avenge that loss to Joliet Catholic in the second round of the playoffs.

• The Celtics are the only team in the state championship field that failed to qualify for the playoffs last season. They went 3-6 in 2021.

• This is Providence’s 12th state championship game appearance, but its first in Class 4A since a title run in 1997 when the state had only six classifications. The IHSA switched to eight classifications in 2001.

The skinny

There’s a laundry list of players that have contributed to the impressive postseason run that Providence has put together. Not a single player received an all-state nod of any kind, nor did any Providence player receive any individual award from the CCL/ESCC. Nobody seems to mind that much in Providence’s camp as the only thing that it does seem to care about, a state championship, is very much within its reach.