Illinois High School Football News

Prairie Ridge QB Tyler Vasey smashed the state rushing record. Here’s how the former record holder reacted

Former Lexington running back T.J. Stinde, who went on to play at NCAA Division III Illinois Wesleyan, held the IHSA season rushing record at 3,325 yards for 13 years.

Former Lexington running back T.J. Stinde used to take a little ribbing from his Illinois Wesleyan football teammates.

The other Titans occasionally would give Stinde a hard time about being the IHSA rushing season record-holder at 3,325 yards.

Stinde ran for that total in 2009 as the Minutemen went 13-1 and finished as Class 1A state runners-up to Tuscola, losing a 14-7 title game.

“I definitely remember our run in November,” Stinde said. “That was one of the most memorable parts is the run to the state championship and playing in that. Obviously, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted.”

Stinde’s mark stood for 13 years, until Prairie Ridge quarterback Tyler Vasey started attacking the IHSA list in Week 8, when he racked up 334 yards rushing against Crystal Lake South. He still hasn’t stopped.

Vasey passed Stinde when he ran for 481 yards in the Wolves’ Class 6A playoffs quarterfinals victory over Harlem 69-28. Vasey now sits at 3,780 yards after the semifinals as Prairie Ridge (12-1) heads to meet East St. Louis (11-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Illinois Memorial Stadium in the Class 6A state championship.

“He’s on pace to go over 4,000, that’s incredible,” Stinde said. “Congratulations to him. That’s a great accomplishment. I got to live with it for 12 or 13 years anyway. A few years ago, someone was on pace to break it and did not make it to the state championship.”

Stinde was talking about Glenbard North’s Justin Jackson, now a backup running back with the Detroit Lions. Jackson finished with 3,171, second on the list, after playing only 11 games.

Like Stinde, Vasey derives pleasure that his record has come while his team is experiencing great success.

“If I broke it and we only made it to the second round …,” Vasey said. “But now we’re going to a state championship and hopefully will win this game, that shows a lot. We’re doing something right in the program. Everybody’s working toward the same thing.”

Belleville Althoff’s Hickey Thompson set the season record at 3,105 in 1990. Decatur St. Teresa’s Sean Dunning broke Thompson’s mark at 3,127 in 2005, then Stinde took over four years later.

After Week 7, Vasey’s breaking the state rushing record was not yet on the radar. But he ran for 1,115 yards in Weeks 8-10 and all bets were off. In the past six games, Vasey has rushed for 2,046 yards and 32 touchdowns.

“I didn’t think much of it during the game,” Vasey said. “It was nice to get it off my back. I didn’t want everybody talking about it. I didn’t want it to become a distraction because our goal was to win the game, not for my personal achievement.

Prairie Ridge's Tyler Vasey runs for a gain at the Class 6A Quarter Finals on Saturday, Nov. 12,2022 in Machesney Park.

“Obviously, it’s cool. It’s not a personal achievement to me, it’s a team achievement. It’s huge for our program. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the offensive line and the backs, they do so much for me. I couldn’t even take that honor as individual, I only see it as a team one. I was happy, I got it over with and didn’t have to think about it anymore.”

Mike Castleman, Lexington’s head coach in 2009, is now the athletic director at Olympia. Castleman said the record happened organically, behind the Minutemen’s strong offensive line and an outstanding defense that usually quickly got the ball back.

“There are so many things about that season that was memorable,” Castleman said. “During the summer knew we had something special. I was still a pretty young coach, and I was just hoping I didn’t mess things up.

“In a small school if you can put two good classes back-to-back then you really have a chance to do something special. Our junior and senior classes that year were pretty special. T.J.’s record just kind of happened. We were more concerned about being a good team.”

Castleman said the Minutemen often had larger crowds on the road than their home opponents. He also said Stinde did not carry the ball a lot in the second halves of games.

“We did not focus on the record at all,” Castleman said. “We would just stick to our game plan. T.J. averaged about 25 carries a game. He only play in the fourth quarter in one regular-season game. The other regular season games he would play one series in the third quarter and that was about it.”

Former Lexington running back T.J. Stinde went on to play at Illinois Wesleyan after he set the IHSA season rushing mark at 3,325 in 2009.

The playoffs were a different story. The Minutemen did not have any blowout wins, as they triumphed by nine, eight, 11 and seven points to reach the title game.

“I think we had to score a couple fourth-quarter touchdowns in the (semifinal, a 27-20 win over Lena-Winslow) that sent us to the championship game,” Stinde said.

Stinde was 5-foot-9, 195 pounds in high school and Lexington utilized a power running game with him as the focal point. He now lives in Morris and works as a project manager for a construction company. He also recently joined the Chicago Association of Realtors.

“We ran lot of toss and it was nice running behind the fullback,” Stinde said. “I used the straight-arm quite a bit in high school and college.

“I was a powerful runner. I was fairly strong, benching 350 in high school. It was a fun time. I was not as fast as I would have liked to be, I got a lot faster in college, actually.”

Stinde ran for 128 yards in the state championship loss. He passed Decatur St. Teresa’s Sean Dunning (3,127) in the semifinal game, although there was not any huge fanfare given at the time.”

Castleman said the Minutmen made offensive adjustments to tailor to their players. Stinde’s sophomore, they ran triple-option. In his junior year, they had an athletic quarterback and used a pistol look. In his senior year, it was an I-Pro set behind a solid offensive line and a lead-blocking fullback.

“It just all worked,” Castleman said. “T.J. had a unique running style of speed and power. However, most coaches talked about his balance. He was just never off-balance when he ran and contact was made.

“T.J. was a once-in-a-career kind of player.”