CHAMPAIGN—After two years of losing in the state semifinals, the Prairie Ridge football team finally got to the 6A state finals and made school history Saturday.
The Wolves (13-1) won their first state championship with a 35-14 victory over Peoria Richwoods (10-4).
Players and fans were building up anticipation after senior cornerback John Borst intercepted the ball with less than a minute remaining. As time expired, everyone jumped and cheered amid many joyful tears.
“I’m proud of how our guys handled the entire season,” Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp said. “That game you saw tonight is what we’ve been going through the last few weeks — good, hard-nosed football. Our defense came out and played a great game, especially with tackling.”
Prairie Ridge junior running back Jordan Getzelman had touchdown runs of 10 and 35 yards on sweep left plays while the defense also produced a score.
Prairie Ridge began the game with nine straight runs for 46 yards. Senior quarterback Nick Nissen dropped back for his first pass, which was deflected by the Richwoods’ defensive line and into the arms of senior linebacker Ben Couri.
Late in the first, Richwoods senior quarterback Wes McCormack hit junior running back Jeremye Johnson for a 36-yard touchdown. Johnson broke free from single coverage on the right side for the easy score.
The Wolves answered in the second quarter with a one-yard touchdown run by senior running back Connor Greenwald. Two plays previously, Getzelman brought the ball to Richwoods’ 10 yard line after a 26-yard scamper.
“I want to thank all my teammates,” Greenwald said. “I still can’t believe it.”
Both the Knights and Wolves’ defenses held strong the next two possessions. However, the Wolves punted and pinned Richwoods at its own 7 and then proceeded to hold the Knights to a three and out late in the second.
Prairie Ridge’s first third-quarter drive witnessed Getzelman have three first down runs, including a 10-yard touchdown on a sweep left for a 14-7 Wolves lead.
On second and 20, Prairie Ridge senior cornerback John Borst pulled an open Glasper down for a pass interference. With a fresh set of downs, McCormack threw a screen to Johnson.
Johnson tried making some room, but Wolves senior linebacker Brad Simms ripped the ball out and senior defensive lineman Erik Odden returned it 15 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7 Wolves.
“I just kind of took out the tackle like I was assigned to do, and everyone on the outside did a nice job stopping him,” Odden said. “I saw Brad strip out the ball. It bounced to my hands and I scooped and scored as in practice.”
Seconds later, McCormack hit senior wide receiver Clayton Glasper for a 59-yard reception as he juked Prairie Ridge junior safety Sean Folliard to the Wolves 1-yard line and the Knights punched it in for a 21-14 game.
“I just kept going,” Glasper said. “I got the pass to the 1-yard line and got my team some momentum going. We didn’t want to keep our heads down in the state finals.”
But the Wolves weren't done. Running a fake up the middle, Getzelman was left open on the left side and scored from 35 yards out to put the Wolves up 28-14.
“They run the option very well,” Couri said. “It’s all based on responsibility. If you have one person miss their job, you could be gone. Everyone has to be out and on their responsibility."
Senior linebacker Collin Corcoran sacked McCormack to force another three and out the following drive.
Prairie Ridge senior defensive back Brett Covers and Borst had late four-quarter interceptions and senior running back Steve Bashor ran from 27 yards out to finish the scoring.