CHAMPAIGN—The Bolingbrook football team is used to overcoming adversity.
After being picked to lose to Loyola Academy in the 8A state finals while was a late scratch, the Raiders also lost five turnovers on a rainy Saturday.
Those obstacles could not stand in Bolingbrook’s way as it defeated the Ramblers 21-17 to claim the school’s first-ever football state championship.
“This is something that we’ve been working for a long time at Bolingbrook High School,” Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow said. “I still got three guys from that 1993 staff who wanted to get one more chance to win before they retire. There are also many other people still involved in the program who share in this as much as us.”
Raiders defensive back Diaron Rhodes came up with a huge interception with 3 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the game and Bolingbrook's offense milked the clock to just 90 seconds.
The Raiders defense then forced the Ramblers to a quick four-and-out with 1:04 remaining, and Bolingbrook sealed its championship fate.
Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 33-yard scrambler with 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Bailey finished the game with 149 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns while passing for 140 yards.
Saturday’s constant drizzle made the ball slippery, which greatly contributed to two lost fumbles and two picks by Bailey. The star quarterback said he just didn’t think about his mistakes and moved on.
“It’s truly a blessing,” Bailey said of winning state. “It’s not just for us. It’s just not for the football team 2011, but it’s for everybody— the community, the fans and the families. I thank God we won it and this was the first time we won it.’
Bolingbrook's defense forced two turnovers, had three sacks and held Loyola to 182 yards of total offense, a new IHSA 8A record.
“It’s a difficult defense as they bring blitzes from multiple sides of the ball,” said Weaver, who was 10-of-31 for 99 yards and a pick. “There were a few things that we didn’t step up in with hitting short routes and making make big plays. They attacked out on the ball and we didn’t take advantage of certain things."
Bolingbrook sophomore defensive back Parker Westphal, who had four tackles and two sacks.
“Before the game, I knew they would try and pick on me because they felt that I was the young one, but I had to step up,” Westphal said. “My coach helped me, prepared me and I was ready.”
Loyola opened the scoring on a 25-yard rushing touchdown with 3:15 left in the first quarter. Bolingbrook then responded with an 89-yard touchdown drive of its own, capped off by Bailey's first score.
The Raiders then capitalized on a mental lapse by Loyola's punter, who accidentally took a knee while receiving a snap on the Ramblers' 1-yard line. With a first-and-goal on the 1-yard line, running back Jaden Huff found pay dirt to give Bolingbrook a 14-7 lead.
Loyola would score late in the half on a quarterback keeper, and the two teams would head into the half tied 14-14.
Loyola connected on a 40-yard field goal to take a 17-14 lead with 1:51 left in third quarter—an IHSA 8A title game record—and the stage would be set for Bailey to take the lead for good.
Bailey credited his defense with giving the Raiders good field position all game.
Bolingbrook head coach John Ivlow told NBC Chicago, which aired the game live, that it was a great day for the entire Bolingbrook community.
"Wow, what a feeling," he said. "We have all of our ex-players and coaches here ... it's just a great feeling and great for the community."
The Raiders last played in the state finals during their 1993 season, when the Raiders lost to Belvidere High School.
A public rally will be held at at 2 p.m Sunday to welcome back the newly-crowned Raider football team.
For more on this story, including photos and reaction from players and coaches, check back with Bolingbrook Patch throughout the night.