STANFORD — In one fell swoop, the Olympia High School football team ended two losing streaks with a 22-15 victory over Central Catholic that caused Spartan fans to storm the field on Friday.
Led by Matthew Cooksey’s 201 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, Olympia ended a 21-game overall losing streak and a 14-year stretch of losses to the Saints while improving to 1-3 overall and in the Illini Prairie Conference.
“It feels really great,” said Cooksey after being swarmed by fans. “I’ll give it to our defense. The offense did great, too, but I’m proud of the defense. We all play like a team.”
Central (0-4, 0-4), which turned the ball over five times, last lost to Olympia in 2003 by a score of 14-0.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Spartan quarterback Jackson Castleman while holding the newly instituted Corn Bowl traveling trophy. “We played a great game on both sides of the ball. We did everything coach asked us to do.
“(Cooksey) is a freak of nature in his shiftiness. He’s the best running back in the conference.”
Cooksey scored on runs of 3, 40 and 16 yards.
“We started working as soon as we could in May and these guys have just bought into everything we’ve asked them to do,” said first-year Olympia coach Eric Lyons in between hugs from his three children.
“Our fans have been waiting for this for a long time. Our players have been waiting for this for a long time. We knew we were really close. We’d been close (to winning) the last two weeks. We were knocking on the door and it was just time to knock the door down.”
First-year Central Catholic coach Joe Walters applauded his team’s effort despite injuries leaving the Saints with just four senior starters.
“They just want to win so bad,” he said.
Central’s leading rusher was Reece Seidl with 153 yards on 18 carries. Teammate Conner Boerm completed 13 of 24 passes for 164 yards and was intercepted by Landen Alcorn, Hayden Stork and Kaden Seeman. Liam Brady had seven receptions for 80 yards.
“The offense is starting to click and he’s seeing where it goes,” said Walters of Seidl. “He had a heck of a night. He had 36 yards for the year coming in. Conner is still getting better at quarterback.”
Olympia’s Drew Bedwell and Alcorn recovered fumbles while Braden Glowacki recovered one for Central.
Cooksey took on a workhorse role, carrying five times on the opening drive before scoring on a 3-yard run with 9:09 to go in the first quarter. After a penalty, Cooksey’s 35-yard conversion kick was blocked.
On the Spartans’ next possession, Cooksey contributed runs of 36 and 40 yards, scoring on the latter along the right sideline. His conversion run made it 14-0 with 5:08 to go in the first period.
“He’s a special athlete,” Lyons said. “Every time he gets the ball, we feel like it could go to the house. If it’s not there, he makes things happen. He’s such a warrior, too. He plays so hard.”
The Saints came to life on their next possession, driving 62 yards in five plays capped by Brady’s 30-yard TD catch from Boerm. The snap for the conversion kick went awry, but kicker Jonathan Naour recovered in time to make a two-point pass to Hayden Pirtz.
Just 28 seconds later with 3:09 left in the first quarter, Seidl recovered a Cooksey fumble and returned it 21 yards for a TD. Naour’s kick put Central up, 15-14.
Late in the second period, Cooksey put Olympia ahead to stay by ending a seven-play, 80-yard drive with a 16-yard TD scamper. Castleman’s conversion pass to Stork made it 22-15 at intermission. Castleman threw for 8 yards on 1-of-6 accuracy and carried 13 times for 27 yards.
Cooksey had 145 rushing yards in the first half.
“He’s probably the best, outside of the kid at Pontiac (Austin Norman), that we’ve seen,” Walters said. “I thought both teams played a lot of great defense tonight.”