CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Addison Driscoll, but now the Highlanders are one win away from their sixth straight state football championship.
Driscoll (12-1) meets Breese Mater Dei (11-2) for the IHSA 4A title Friday at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
"On paper we lost 32 seniors," Driscoll coach Mike Burzawa said. "But we knew we had a great (group) of kids coming back."
Addison nearly didn't make it out of the first round, edging Morton 12-7 before beating Bloomington Central Catholic, Harvard and Prairie Central to win another trip to the finals.
"We're shocked to be in this situation coming from Morton where it was fourth-and-10 and we needed to score a touchdown to keep going," said quarterback Phil Pedi, who is 31-3 in his career as a starter. "We're cruising now, and we're ready to take on whoever's in our way."
Standing in the way is a Mater Dei team that survived a 17-14 scare against Newton in the quarter finals before beating Mascoutah 7-0 in the semis.
Addison Driscoll counts on Tim Franken, who rushed for 1,135 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. His counterpart for Mater Dei is Scott Hemann, who also scored 14 TDs and rushed for 1,150 yards. Mater Dei can also take to the air with Colin Detmer, who passed for almost 1,400 yards with 10 TD passes and 11 interceptions, his favorite receiver being Kyle Thole (43 catches for 819 yards and six TDs.).
The busy week at the U of I starts at 10 a.m. Friday with a pair of games pitting unbeatens - the 2A matchup between Westville (13-0) and Maroa-Forsyth (13-0) that will be followed by 1A faceoff between Aledo (13-0) and Tuscola (13-0).
Westville is balanced. Caleb Pratt rushed for 1,887 yards and 27 TDS, while Jaco Attutis had 1,381 yards passing and 20 TDs through the air.
But Maroa-Forsyth, which yielded just 86 points on defense, has two offensive threats with even bigger numbers. Shane Conway gained 2,059 yards rushing with 36 TDS, while Luke Hockaday passed for 2,628 yards and 36 scores. Robert Kreps caught 68 passes, 24 for touchdowns.
Aledo's Justin Allen has been nearly unstoppable, running for 1,901 yards with a 10-yard per carry average and scoring 32 TDs. Tuscola can turn to the pass with John Weinke, who threw for 2,837 yards and 29 TDs this season.
After Driscoll tangles with Mater Dei, another showdown of unbeatens follows in 3A with Plano (13-0) and St. Joseph-Ogden (13-0) squaring off. Plano features the 1-2 rushing attack of Nick Nasti (1,681) and Jared Ferguson 1,028), who combined for 43 touchdowns this season. Ogden's offense is centered around Mark Gones, who rushed for 1,715 yards and scored 27 TDs.
On Saturday the only other school with a chance to repeat, 2005 winner Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (13-0), faces Marian Central Catholic (13-0) in 5A. Sacred Heart-Griffin, which gave up only 88 points all season and is led by linebacker Andrew Collings, will have to contend with Central Catholic's T.J. Pappas, who gained 1,079 yards with 16 touchdowns.
The 6A matchup pits Normal Community (13-0 against Batavia (12-1). Normal outscored foes 464-68 with a stingy defense led by linebacker Sam Smith.
In 7A, it's Lake Zurich (12-1) going against Chicago St. Rita (12-1). St. Rita's relies on Darion Hood, who rushed for 1,279 yards and 16 TDS.
The 8A game shapes up as a doozy between two state powerhouses.
Mount Carmel (12-1) has won 10 state titles, including nine under veteran coach Frank Lenti. The Caravan ended defending state champion Lincoln Way-East's 26-game winning streak in the semfinals, 14-12 by intercepting a two-point conversion pass. Wheaton Warrenville South (13-0), which has four state championships, lost to Lincoln-Way East in the finals a year ago.
Wheaton Warrenville South has outscored its opponents 528-90 this season and features Dan Dierking, who has rushed for 2,191 yards and scored 32 touchdowns.
"We're going to have to play a lot better and be more consistent if we're going to walk away with that state title," said Mount Carmel senior quarterback Carter Kopach, who passed for 1,266 yards and nine TDs. "They're a tough team and they'll be the best team we faced all year."