Class 4A: Highlanders make it seven titles in a row
CHAMPAIGN – Senior running back Tim Franken and his teammates did not want to be known as the team that couldn't finish the job.
No worries there.
The legend continued to grow at Driscoll Catholic High on Friday night.
The Highlanders used their relentless rushing attack, spear-headed by Franken and senior quarterback Dave Schwabe, to bust open a close game late in the third quarter and cruise to their seventh consecutive state title and their 35th straight win with a 48-24 victory against Corn Belt Conference champion Bloomington Central Catholic in the Class 4A state title game.
"We wanted to make sure that we weren't the team that ended the streak," Franken said in reference to his team's dominant run this decade.
Franken ran for 159 yards and scored five touchdowns – three in the second half – and Schwabe finished with a game-high 243 rushing yards on 18 carries, including a 94-yard scoring romp in the first half.
The Highlanders ground machine finished with 430 of the team's 526 total yards of offense.
As impressive as that is, it could have been worse for the Saints. Driscoll (14-0) was flagged for five first-quarter penalties, two bringing back Franken touchdowns to keep the score 7-7 at quarter's end.
"The penalties were kind of frustrating," Schwabe said. "But we corrected things and played a lot better in the second half."
After BCC (13-1) cut a seven-point halftime deficit to 21-17 with just under eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Highlanders showed why they reign supreme in Class 4A.
Driscoll scored touchdowns on its next four possessions, interrupted only by a BCC touchdown run by Ryan Waldron with 9:51 to play that cut the lead to 35-24 at the time. Franken put the finishing touches on coach Mike Burzawa's third title in three years on the job with a 13-yard scamper.
Burzawa, who is now 41-1 as the Highlanders coach, praised his seniors after the game.
"Those guys made a commitment and tonight they saw it through," Burzawa said. "I am extremely happy for them and the entire program."
BCC quarterback Adam Rebholz completed 13 of 22 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns and also was intercepted twice. Senior wideout Javier Safford caught seven passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
The Highlanders have won eight championships overall.
But this year's win had special meaning for the team because during the team's playoff run, longtime offensive coach Mike Loconsole died of lymphoma at 53 on Nov. 6.
After the game, some Highlander players went to the stands to present the Loconsole family with the game ball.
"His family and daughter were here tonight and it's the biggest gift we could give their family," Schwabe said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.