BLOOMINGTON - Every Thursday at the end of practice, Central Catholic High School's football team works on its two-minute drill. This was not Thursday - and it certainly wasn't practice - yet no sense of panic was evident Saturday at Bill Hundman Memorial Field. | Photo gallery | Box scores, stats
With their season on the line and needing to cover 65 yards with less than two minutes left in a Class 4A semifinal playoff game against Mount Carmel, the Saints challenged themselves.
"We kept saying in the huddle, 'How bad do you want it? How bad do you want to go to state?' " said junior quarterback Adam Rebholz. "We wanted it pretty bad."
Rebholz directed the drive of his life and one that will be talked about forever at Central Catholic. The Saints went 65 yards in nine plays, culminated by Rebholz's 4-yard touchdown pass to Dan Curran with 20 seconds left. Michael Fenger's extra-point kick sailed through the uprights as the third-ranked Saints pulled off a 35-34 victory over No. 2 Mount Carmel.
"I'm still kind of in shock now, but our offense kept fighting the whole day and kept our heads up," said senior wide receiver Javier Safford, who made three key receptions on the winning drive. "Whenever we get down on ourselves, we always pick ourselves back up."
Central Catholic (13-0) advances to its first championship game since winning the Class 3A title in 1994. The Saints meet top-ranked Addison Driscoll (13-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Driscoll, which looks to extend its state record title streak to seven straight, downed Coal City 41-14 Saturday.
The Saints survived despite committing five turnovers and squandering a 21-7 lead near the end of the first half.
"They're tough kids. They fought through a lot of adversity today," said Central Catholic coach Bobby Moews. "They kept fighting and fighting and fighting and kept playing hard. You can't ask any more as a coach than that."
When quarterback Kyle Buss ran for his fourth touchdown on a 2-yard sneak with 1:50 left, Mount Carmel (12-1) led 34-28. But Rebholz burst through the middle of the line to block Alex Schalasky's extra-point kick. Suddenly, all did not seem lost.
"When they came off I told them, 'We're going to win this thing 35-34. I don't know how we're going to get down there, but we're going to get down there and make this happen,' " said Moews.
A 17-yard completion from Rebholz to Safford on third-and-11 got the Saints started and moved them into Mount Carmel territory. Consecutive passes of 17 yards and 12 yards to Ryan Waldron and Safford, respectively, put Central Catholic on the Aces' 4.
After an incompletion, Moews called upon Curran, who had not caught a pass in the game.
"It was just a crossing route in the end zone," said Curran, a junior. "Coach made a good call on that. We got good protection from the line, and (Rebholz) made a good read and got the ball where it needed to be."
Mount Carmel wasn't through. Two 15-yard completions put the Aces at midfield with one play left. Buss scrambled out of the pocket and heaved a long pass for Jensen Dardeen that dropped incomplete in the end zone as the horn sounded.
Mount Carmel outgained the Saints in total yardage, 426-351. Waldron TD runs of 8 and 23 yards and Rebholz's 13-yard scoring pass to Safford gave Central Catholic a 21-7 lead. But the Aces got back in the game when they turned a pair of Saints' turnovers at the end of the first half and beginning of the second into two touchdowns and a 21-all tie.
"Our kids battled to the end. We were down 21-7 and it didn't look good, and our kids hung in there," said Mount Carmel coach Darren Peach. "In the second half give a lot of credit to BCC. They're a great football team."
Rebholz, who also tossed a 57-yard TD pass to Pat McNeil, enjoyed a rollercoaster day. He completed 15 of 23 attempts for 239 yards, but also was intercepted four times and lost a fumble. But with Mount Carmel limiting Waldron to 10 of his 81 yards rushing in the second half, the Saints put the game in Rebholz's arm.