CHAMPAIGN – Jordan Barney owned up to his mistake and said he was sorry.
There was no reason, however, for the Westville football team to apologize for its berth in the Class 2A state title game.
"The game didn't turn out the way we wanted," Westville coach Guy Goodlove said after Friday's 50-12 loss to Dakota. "I don't care what the score was.
"They've done something Westville has never done. Making it back-to-back is a tremendous accomplishment. The score is not what we wanted, but we're here.
"They're hurting now, but when they get to be old men, this is something they can brag about and cherish forever. They put Westville on the map."
The outcome had long been decided – just 3 minutes and 39 seconds remained in the game – when Barney was penalized for a personal foul after kicking a Dakota player in the head.
"I didn't mean to kick him and I apologized to the kid," Barney said. "That was poor sportsmanship on our part."
Barney was not upset by what Dakota did on its next play. Leading 43-12, starting quarterback Derek Schurch passed to starting receiver Spencer Meinert for a 37-yard scoring pass.
"They felt we did wrong and there was nothing wrong in what they did," Barney said.
Goodlove would not be drawn into a controversy about whether Dakota was trying to run up the score.
"Who cares?" he asked. "It's not a big deal to us."
Two in a row
While Goodlove emphasized the positives from reaching the title game again, his players had a different view.
"It was a great experience, but it's more painful getting here twice and not being able to finish it off," Barney said.
In the final Class 2A polls (released before the playoffs), Morrison was ranked No. 1 and Westville was No. 2. Dakota (ranked No. 5) knocked off each in the final three weeks.
"They had athletes to shut us down everywhere," senior Caleb Pratt said. "They were always in the right place at the right time and there was not much we could do about that."
Pratt agreed with Barney that Friday's loss was tougher than the one to unbeaten Maroa-Forsyth in 2006.
"Last year, we had another year and this year, we don't," Pratt said. "That makes it hurt even more."
Pratt ended his career with his 20th straight 100-yard rushing performance, gaining 158 on the ground en route to 249 all-purpose yards (65 receiving, 26 on kickoff returns).
He concluded with a state-record 8,497 career yards rushing, 1,134 yards more than the previous record. He added two more touchdowns to his all-time total (now 127), which is 17 more than the previous record.
His 41st 100-yard rushing performance is nine more than the previous mark. His career rushing total places him 13th on the all-time national high school list. Pratt said he doesn't plan to dwell on his achievements.
"No, because we don't have a ring," he said. "I won't think about it."
He said he may have played his final organized game.
"I don't know if I want to play in college," Pratt said. "It would be hard to give it up. We'll have to see."
Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette's prep sports coordinator. You can reach him at 217-351-5235 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.