Cardinals over Unity C/O RRSTAR Emily Tropp
November 21, 2010Stillman Valley High School
There usually are several key plays that make the difference in a state semifinal game. But at Stillman Valley on Saturday, it was unanimous which play was the game-changer.
Stillman Valley's goal-line stand halfway through the third quarter led the Cardinals to a 29-19 home win against Tolono Unity in the Class 3A state semifinals.
"If they would have scored there, it would have been big," said Stillman Valley junior A.J. Dobson, who was part of the heap of Stillman Valley defensive linemen who stopped Tolono Unity.
The Cardinals (13-0) will play Carthage Illini West (13-0) at 4 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign for the 3A state title. It will be a rematch of last year's semifinal game, which Stillman Valley won in overtime before going on to win state.
Tolono Unity (11-2) controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half against Stillman Valley and owned a 19-14 lead with just over six minutes left in the third quarter when the Rockets found themselves on the 1-yard line threatening to score again. The Cardinals stopped them and then marched 99 yards for an 18-play scoring drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Adam Cox to put Stillman Valley in the lead for good.
"That was the game right there," said Cox, who finished with 86 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. "Then we turn around and go 99 yards. It obviously shows what a stand like that can do for us. It was just awesome."
It was the closest game of the season for the Cardinals, who also beat Tolono Unity in last year's state championship game.
"We had them on the ropes for a while and then let them off," Tolono Unity coach Scott Hamilton said. "I told our guys all along, they're champions and they're not going to hand anything over to you. And obviously they didn't today."
Unity scored on its first drive of the game on an 8-yard run by quarterback Taylor Black. The extra point kick failed, allowing Stillman Valley to take a 7-6 lead on its first drive following a 42-yard run by Dane Green and Isaac Robert kick.
Both teams added seven points apiece in the second quarter, with Black scoring on a 4-yard run for Unity and Green completing a 78-yard touchdown pass to Nate Bond for the Cardinals, and Stillman Valley led 14-13 at halftime.
Stillman Valley fumbled and lost the ball on its first drive in the second half, and Tolono Unity answered with a 2-yard TD run to take the lead.
After going three-and-out, Stillman Valley found itself back on defense again. This time, the Cardinals held Tolono Unity on the 1-yard line and then scored 15 unanswered points for the win.
Cox, Stillman Valley's leading rusher, played defense in the first half, but was used sparingly on offense after spraining his ankle in last week's quarterfinal win. He returned full-time after Stillman Valley's third-quarter goal-line stand and punched in Stillman Valley's last two touchdowns.
"We needed him, not just from the physical side," Stillman Valley coach Mike Lalor said. "He's the guy who lines everybody up, and he's one of the guys the guys rally around, so it was important for him to be out there."
Stillman Valley will go for its fifth state title since 1999 Friday.