Live! From DeKalb

DEKALB — Heartache.
That's probably what the St. Joseph-Ogden football team is probably feeling right now.

Stillman Valley outlasted the Spartans 43-41 in overtime to win the Class 3A state title game at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb on Friday evening.

SJ-O took a 35-28 lead in the fourth quarter, but Stillman Valley forced a tie late in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

Stillman Valley scored on a 2-yard run by Zac Hare on its first overtime possession and then Hare ran in a two-point conversion.

Connor Janes scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to cut SJ-O's deficit to 43-41, but Dalton Walsh was sacked on the two-point conversion attempt to end the game.

Walsh finished 24 of 35 for 259 yards and three touchdown passes while Janes (85 rushing yards on 11 carries, two TDs and 41 receiving yards on five catches, one TD) helped carry the offense.

SJ-O finished the season 11-3 and placed second in state for a fifth time.

More coming on www.news-gazette.com and more coverage in Saturday's News-Gazette.

St. Joseph-Ogden 35, Stillman Valley 35. End of regulation
The Spartans couldn't get a first down on a possession late in the fourth quarter and after a short run by Stillman Valley, it's headed to overtime here in DeKalb.

St. Joseph-Ogden 35, Stillman Valley 35, 1:19 left in fourth quarter
Brady Depratt had a touchdown-saving tackle on a run by Zac Hare near the St. Joseph-Ogden 40-yard line. But Stillman Valley still found the end zone. A 1-yard plunge from Hare on fourth-and-goal and extra point by Keaton Weber has tied the game. Looks like overtime is coming from Huskie Stadium.

St. Joseph-Ogden 35, Stillman Valley 28, 5:44 left in fourth quarter
Go ahead and have yourself a game Dalton Walsh. The St. Joseph-Ogden quarterback Walsh kept a third-and-9 play alive with his feet before hitting Jake Stewart near the sidelines for a 17-yard gain. He then hit Hunter Hart on an 18-yard pass near the sidelines again, avoiding Stillman Valley pressure. He was sacked, bringing up a fourth-and-11 from Stillman Valley's 22-yard line. No worries. He found Hart uncovered over the middle for a 22-yard touchdown pass to give SJO the lead once more.

St. Joseph-Ogden 28, Stillman Valley 28, 8:20 left in fourth quarter
Stillman Valley coach Mike Lalor doesn't want any other player to run the ball except for Zac Hare. The senior fullback for the Cardinals received the majority of carries on this last drive. The All-State product didn't punch it in, but he was a key reason why Logan Alberts scored from 3 yards out on fourth-and-goal.

St. Joseph-Ogden 28, Stillman Valley 21, End of third quarter
Third quarter hero: Connor Janes. He's not the plodding, slow-footed player usually associated with fullbacks. The SJ-O junior can move. Out in space. In between tackles. Whatever Dick Duval needs, Janes is providing. His 4-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter has given the Spartans the seven-point lead it has going into the fourth quarter.

Play of the quarter: Dalton Walsh rolled right and Jake Stewart did his best tight-rope walker impersonation, hauling in a 7-yard pass on fourth-and-5 from Stillman Valley's 13-yard line. Gutsy play-call and even better result. Duval won't be confused with a riverboat gambler, but the veteran coach isn't afraid to roll the dice in a high-stakes game like today.

Third quarter thoughts: It's a battle of which fullback can outdo the other one. Janes is hard to bring down. The junior fullback has been thrust into more of a role running the ball for SJ-O with Orion Ciota battling a knee injury. Zac Hare refuses to go down for Stillman Valley. The fullback has a game-high 111 rushing yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns for the Cardinals. Expect to see him get the ball often in the fourth quarter. Chances are the game will come down to one of those two players contributing significantly. SJ-O called its first timeout of the half with 3:18 left in the third quarter. In a close game, have to hope that doesn't come back to bite. Kudos to the fans braving it out in the elements. From here in the press box, looks mighty, mighty cold. Of course, it is late November, so it's to be expected.

St. Joseph-Ogden 28, Stillman Valley 21, 57 seconds left in third quarter
Orion Ciota is putting forth one heck of an effort today. The junior tailback for the Spartans, who missed most of last Saturday's state semifinal game at Greenville with a knee injury, helped SJ-O get down inside the Stillman Valley 5-yard line. Connor Janes finished it off with a 4-yard touchdown run and then caught a two-point conversion pass from Dalton Walsh to give the Spartans the lead once more.

Stillman Valley 21, St. Joseph-Ogden 20. 4:55 left in third quarter
That missed extra point by Orion Ciota might come into play. Stillman Valley regained the lead when Zac Hare scored on an 8-yard run and Keaton Weber's extra point was good. SJ-O's defense forced a fourth-down play at midfield, but Hare responded with a run to convert the first down. Stopping the run was key for the Spartans coming into today. They have, at times, been able to contain the run, but not consistently enough.

St. Joseph-Ogden 20, Stillman Valley 14, 8:01 left in third quarter
Connor Janes is running like a man. The fullback, or tailback on some plays, is carrying the load for SJ-O. And Dalton Walsh is doing his part, too. A balanced offensive approach by SJ-O has the Spartans nursing a lead four minutes into the third quarter. Orion Ciota capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run off left guard, but missed the extra point to only give the Spartans a six-point lead.

St. Joseph-Ogden 14, Stillman Valley 14, Halftime
Second quarter hero: Hunter Hart. The SJ-O senior wide receiver came back for a crucial completion from Dalton Walsh on the Spartans' second scoring drive of the night. The ability by SJ-O to convert on third-down and longs is a key reason why the Spartans are still in this game going into the third quarter.

Play of the quarter: Walsh completed a nice sideline pass to Connor Janes for a gain of 24 yards on a third down-and-long to keep the Spartans' second touchdown drive of the game intact. Walsh is showing the poise and moxie Dick Duval has wanted to see all season. On the biggest stage possible. Not too shabby.

Second quarter thoughts: This will be a quick game if Stillman Valley continues to run the ball efficiently like it has so far out of its triple-option offense. Zac Hare is a beast to bring down. SJ-O has, but usually not until he has run for 4 or 5 yards. In an option offense, it all filters through the fullback, and right now, Hare is doing a fine job of that. So is Walsh when it comes to throwing passes. Playing in his last game in an SJ-O uniform, Walsh has completed 12 of 18 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He'll need to keep that production up in the second half as

Stillman Valley is doing a good job of stifling Orion Ciota and SJ-O's run game. Ciota only has 16 rushing yards on 10 carries. Ten of those yards came on his first carry of the day. SJ-O's defense did a better job of containing Hare and Co. after the early part of the quarter. Janes had a critical 17-yard run to pick up a first down on 3rd-and-15 and keep Stillman Valley's offense on the sidelines. Ciota doesn't look all that healthy, so don't be surprised to see Janes get the majority of the carries in the second half. Janes has had a nice game so far, rushing for 34 yards on three carries and having 23 receiving yards on three catches.

Stillman Valley 14, St. Joseph-Ogden 14. 5:59 left in second quarter
Dalton Walsh is playing like a senior quarterback wants to in a state title game. He rifled in a 12-yard pass to Clayton Slifer between a handful of Stillman Valley defenders for his second touchdown pass of the game.

Stillman Valley 14, St. Joseph-Ogden 7. 10:24 left in second quarter
The Cardinals are making it no secret of what they want to do, almost daring SJ-O to try and stop the run game. After the first drive, Stillman Valley has had its way against the Spartans' run defense. Zac Hare scored from 3 yards out, and the bruising fullback has 57 rushing yards on 10 carries. Until SJ-O shows it can slow him down, don't be shocked if Stillman Valley keeps feeding him the ball.

St. Joseph-Ogden 7, Stillman Valley 7. End of first quarter
First quarter hero: Dalton Walsh. The SJ-O senior quarterback didn't display any nerves in his first state title game appearance, driving the Spartans 54 yards in 11 plays on SJ-O's first possession. He complete 4 of 6 passes for 33 yards on the drive, distributing the ball to four different receivers.

Play of the quarter: Operating out of the shotgun, Walsh hit Jake Stewart on an 8-yard pass to pick up a first down on fourth-and-2 from Stillman Valley's 25-yard line to keep SJ-O's first drive alive, which ended in a touchdown. Good confidence by Dick Duval to let Walsh throw the ball again after his previous pass was deflected at the line and nearly intercepted.

First quarter thoughts: Like the columbia blue pants the Spartans are wearing. Every SJO team should wear that shade in every game the Spartans play. In any sport. Just my two cents. That was an impressive defensive stand by the Spartans on the game's first series. Orion Ciota showed no ill effects from the knee injury he sustained against Greenville, carrying 10 yards for a first down on his first carry. Good sign for the Spartans, but Stillman Valley bottled him up the rest of the quarter. Duval showed he wasn't afraid to put the game in Walsh's hands, and the senior quarterback responded.

He was 4 of 6 for 33 passing yards on that first drive for the Spartans. Looking like Nathan Scheelhaase there for a moment.

Always good to have a senior quarterback in a big-time atmosphere, and Walsh showed why early. Stillman Valley has a bigger crowd on hand than SJO, but that's to be expected since it's 35 minutes away.

No doubt it would be reversed if this game was in Champaign. Memorial Stadium will return to its hosting duties in 2014 and every even year through 2020. Thankfully, at least from the spacious press box Memorial Stadium provides.

And the shorter drive.

St. Joseph-Ogden 7, Stillman Valley 7, 2:32 left in first quarter
Stillman Valley didn't waste any time to respond. Micah Castronovo had an 8-yard touchdown run to knot the score after the Cardinals converted a 4th-and-8 from SJ-O's 40-yard line. Get a stop there, and the Spartans still have the lead. Alas, we'll see if Dick Duval's offense can counter.

St. Joseph-Ogden 7, Stillman Valley 0. 6:17 left in first quarter
The Spartans went about it in a methodical way, but a way that proved beneficial. Dalton Walsh completed four passes to four different receivers. The last one was a 5-yard touchdown pass to Connor Janes, who bulled his way into the end zone to complete an 11-play, 54-yard touchdown drive.

SJO's defense stood stout early on, stopping Stillman Valley on three plays. Good start for the Spartans.

Kickoff
St. Joseph-Ogden won the toss, but will defer to the second half.

Stillman Valley will get the ball first today.

SJ-O fans will occupy the bleachers opposite the press box. So if there's anyone still left in St. Joseph or Ogden watching on TV, that's where you can spot family and friends. The game is on Comcast SportsNet, along with WCIX, and is on the radio on WDAN 1490-AM and WXPN 104.3. But follow along here on our live report as we'll have updates after each score and each quarter.

The Spartans have brought their band to Huskie Stadium today, too. Good for the school in doing that. They may be small, but they've played throughout the season, so good for them to get the chance to play here at the state title game. Let's just hope they stay warm in the bleachers.

There will be a welcome home reception for the Spartans tonight in St. Joseph at the high school, sometime between 10 and 11 p.m. Basically whenever the team completes the three-hour drive back south.

Kent Brown stopped by the press box for a bit. The St. Joseph resident and Illinois SID has a son, Ty Brown, who is a sophomore for the Spartans. The younger Brown suffered a leg injury in early August and has missed the football season for SJ-O, but should be healthy and good to go about a month into the basketball season.

SJ-O is going with its white jersey tops, white helmets and columbia blue pants for today's game. It's the same attire the Spartans have worn in each of their two road playoff games, so we'll see if the trend continues. While this is technically a neutral-site game, Stillman Valley is only about 35 miles from DeKalb, so the Cardinals should have more fans in attendance.

SJ-O assistant coach Steve Fiscus is wearing shorts, so he's obviously not afraid of the cold temperatures, which are in the low 30s at kickoff.

He isn't the only assistant Dick Duval has relied on this year. The list is long, but click here to read more about Shawn Skinner, who was an instrumental part on SJ-O's first team to play in a state title game back in 1989.

Bit of a breeze, which makes it feel colder, but the sun is out here before it fades away in a half hour or so. Luckily, no precipitation, although a bit of snow is in the north end zone as a result of snow flurries earlier this week in DeKalb.

SJ-O was the first team out on the field for pregame warmups around 3:40 p.m. Stillman Valley followed suit a few minutes after. Stillman Valley will wear red tops, black pants and white helmets.

Fred Kroner has spotted Unity coach Scott Hamilton and Monticello coach Cully Welter here today in DeKalb. Welter knows all too well about the Spartans' improvement throughout the season. His Sages lost 35-0 to SJ-O in Monticello three weeks ago during the secound round of the playoffs.

Another bit of trivia to test out later on in life. Orion Ciota's grandfather, Mike Ciota, played on the first Riverton football team that came about in 1974. He died in 1999, but there are still relatives in Riverton. SJ-O sports fans are familiar with the small town just east of Springfield. The Spartans' boys basketball team beat the Hawks last March in a Class 2A super-sectional game at the University of Illinois-Springfield to advance to their first-ever state tournament in boys' basketball.

30 minutes until kickoff
Family is a big part of any high school football team. Siblings often play with each other. Relatives, too. No different for SJ-O today. Twins Dylan and Ryan Koss are key components of SJ-O's offensive line, with Ryan seeing time along the defensive line, too. Click here to find out more about the Koss family and its long-standing connection with SJ-O football.

Hunter Hart is a player to keep an eye on in today's game. The senior for the Spartans is the leading pass catcher for Dick Duval's team. He's also a heck of a baseball player. Our Area Player of the Year after last season is signed to pitch at Indiana, but is a possibility to get drafted in next June's Major League Baseball Draft. We'll see what happens with the talented right-hander, but right now, his main focus is providing SJ-O quarterback Dalton Walsh with a bonafide receiving threat.

Seth Griswell anchors the SJ-O offensive line at center. Centers usually don't garner the most attention, but Griswell's play this fall was good enough for him to land one of our 100 All-State special mention nods. Stillman Valley linebacker Zac Hare also received one of our special mention 100 selections. Hare should have his name called frequently. Not only does he spearhead Stillman Valley's offense with his role at fullback, but he does so as well on defense at a linebacker spot.

This is by far the loudest press box I've ever been in. There's about 27 different conversations it seems going on around me. Fun times.

Exaggerating on the number of conversations. Of course, having radio in the same spot as the print media adds to that. Again, press box problems. Sure none of you care about them, so we'll get back to thoughts on the upcoming game.

I saw SJ-O play three times this season. The Spartans manhandled Marshall 47-0 in the season opener on a hot, warm humid late August night. Then they got manhandled against Clifton Central in Week 4, losing 27-0. If you would have asked me at the time which Sangamon Valley Conference team would have played up in DeKalb today, my answer would have been Clifton Central. But SJ-O hasn't lost since falling to 2-2 against the Comets, having won nine straight.

One of those wins was a 47-14 shellacking of Watseka in Week 7 at home. SJ-O led 47-0 at halftime and could easily have won 94-0, but it played its reserves for most of the second half. SJ-O coach Dick Duval had his quarterback take a knee on several plays in that game, and he did the same again against Greenville last Saturday in the state semifinals. Always a good call for any coach to deliver, especially with plenty of time left.

Sterling Newman won the 2A state title with a 40-13 win against Staunton. Tough break for Staunton, which had to make about a five-hour drive up to DeKalb, but were probably ecstatic to be here considering the Bulldogs sneaked into the playoffs with a 5-4 regular season record.

Be back with another update in a half hour or so, which will coincide with kickoff of SJ-O and Stillman Valley.

60 minutes until 3A kickoff
If I type anything today that an opposing radio announcer says, my apologies. We're crammed like sardines in the box, and all the assembled media are in the same area.

Staunton quarterback Jake Bruhn took a big blindside hit from a Sterling Newman defender early in the second half. Looks like that hurt. A lot. Sterling Newman leads 34-13 with 11:18 remaining in the fourth quarter of the 2A state title game.

Speaking of hurt, the Spartans have had to deal with injuries for most of the season. Dick Duval's featured tailback, Austin Hedrick, suffered a knee injury in Week 8 and has been out ever since.

He's likely going to dress today and serve as one of the captains for SJ-O, but will most likely not play. He's an All-State wrestler, and his future is in that sport, so Duval won't do anything to jeopardize his status in that sport.

Orion Ciota has filled in nicely for the Spartans in place of Hedrick, having rushed for 1,156 yards and 14 touchdowns. Most of that damage has taken place in the playoffs, but Ciota sustained a knee injury against Greenville and had to miss most of the Class 3A semifinal game last Saturday.

Ciota is expected to play against Stillman Valley. Connor Janes had a stout game rushing the ball against Greenville, rushing for 191 yards on 34 carries. And Chase Gadau slid over and took the spot of Janes at fullback, rushing for 114 yards on nine carries in the 44-21 victory against the Comets. SJ-O has had a balanced offensive approach for most of the season, but whatever the defense is showing is how the Spartans will approach it offensively.

SJ-O was going through warmups in the NIU indoor practice facility, which is a new addition here at Huskie Stadium. Quiet convenient for opposing teams to use, especially those who have never played on turf this year, like SJ-O. Duval's team utilized the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility at the University of Illinois on Wednesday afternoon, getting a feel for the difference between turf and grass.

Be back in a half hour with another update.

90 minutes until 3A kickoff
Matt Daniels taking over our live-game report updates from here on out throughout the conclusion of the Class 3A state title game. St. Joseph-Ogden and Stillman Valley will vie for the title here in DeKalb. It's sunny, cold and a bit breezy in northern Illinois. A decent amount of fans are in the stands braving the elements between Staunton and Sterling Newman right now. Maybe one-tenth full. Maybe. Like the Huskie eyes staring straight across the field from me in this very cramped, very full press box.

NIU has banners on the top five rows of bleachers on each side of the stadium, with their logos prevalent and those blue Huskie eyes. College football fans have seen them frequently this year as Jordan Lynch and his Huskies are making another bid for a BCS bowl berth. So far, so good.

Back to today's upcoming Class 3A state title game. SJ-O will try to win its first state title in football in school history while Stillman Valley goes for its fifth football state title. Fred Kroner has provided wall-to-wall coverage of the Spartans this week, along with The Leader, the weekly newspaper in St. Joseph that our company also owns. Here's a quick and enjoyable read from our own Bob Asmussen, who spent a day in St. Joseph earlier this week gauging the mood of the folks who are sure excited about today's game.

The consensus among those folks is that they wish the game was in Champaign today. A much shorter drive, for sure. Regardless, I saw a lot of cars decorated in SJ-O colors on the nearly three-hour drive north to DeKalb today. Pretty sure plenty of SJ-O fans will be in the stands for the school's first state title game since 2006.

Halfway there

At the midway mark of the Class 2A title game, Sterling Newman leads Staunton 34-13, at NIU's Huskie Stadium.

Comets chasing No. 5

Sterling Newman needed 15 seconds after getting a turnover to reach the end zone for the fifth time and leads Staunton 34-13 with 2:39 left in the opening half of the Class 2A IHSA football state championship game. Newman is making its eighth appearance in a state title game and the Comets are attempting to gain their fifth crown.

Sterling Newman goes 4 for 4

Sterling newman's fourth possession results in the Comets' fourth TD. Sterling Newman now leads Staunton 26-13 with 3:36 to go in  the first half of the 2A state championship game at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb. The Comets have only had to convert one third-down play.

Offenses going strong

Staunton goes 76 yards in kess than 3 minutes to pull within an 18-13 deficit in 2A title game against Sterling Newman with 5:57 left in the second quarter. Staunton tries an onside kick, but Sterling Newman recovers at their own 49.

Expanding the lead

After a defensive stop -- the game's first -- Sterling Newman zooms downfield and builds its 2A title-game lead over Staunton to 20-7. The drive took 2:33 for a 55-yard march.

Quick score for Sterling Newman

Jake Snow's second TD of the game and 30th of the season returns the lead to Sterling Newman in a 1:47drive as the Comets go ahead of Staunton 12-7 with 0:15 left in the first quarter. Again, the extra-point run failed. Stauntin has a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession.

The first lead change

Staunton has recovered from its 6-0 deficit to take a 7-6 lead over Sterling Newman in the 2A title game at DeKalb. There's 2:02 left in the opening period after the 8-minute, 12-second drive on its first possession.

It didn't take long

Less than 2 minutes after the Class 2A state title game started at NIU's Huskie Stadium, Sterling Newman is in front, 6-0, after its two-point conversion failed.

There's always a chance

Staunton is the perfect exmple of what is possible if a team gets hot at the right time.  Entering the 2A playoffs, the Bulldogs had a 5-4 season record and suffered three straight losses to end the regular season.

Right now, Staunton is playing in the just-started 2A state championship game against Sterling Newman, which has won 12 straight games. The temperature is 33 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 26 degrees. Staunton is the only four-loss team this year to advance into a championship game.

 

First final, first championship

The Class 1A football state title, in come-from-behind fashion, was captured Friday afternoon by Lena-Winslow, which handed Heart of Illinois Conference champion Tri-Valley its first loss in 14 games, 28-21, at Northern Illinois University's Huskie Stadium. Lena-Winslow finishe with an 11-3 season record and secured the win with an interception with 23 seconds remaining.

At about 1 p.m., th 2A final between Sterling Newman and Staunton will start. SJ-O's title bid will occur at 4 p.m. against Stillman Valley in the 3A finals.

One quarter left

Lean-Winslow leads Tri-Valley 28-21 as the Class 1A football title game prepares for the start of the fourth quarter. The Vikings are on the move. It has been a day of fumbles. Both ways. Wonder what the record is for combined fumbles?

Lena takes command

Tyler Oakley scores his third TD, but first  on offense, as Lena-Winslow takes the lead against  Tri-Valley, 28-21, following a two-point conversion. The drive was set up by a Tri-Valley fumbe. There's 3:02 left in the 1A football state title game.

Could have been a tie

Lena-Winslow scored its third TD at 5:38 of third period, but couldn't pull into a tie with Tri-Valley in the 1A football state finals. Bad snap on the conversion attempt resulted in no points and the Vikings cling to a 21-20 lead over the Panthers at NIU's Huskie Stadium.

1A halftime

Tri-Valley leads Lena-Winslow 21-14 as the 15-minute halftime break approaches.

 

Giveth, taketh.

Lena-Winslow scored twice on fumble returns in the first half of the 1A state title game and, 2:52 before halftime, gives Tri-Valley a short field, fumbling the ball away at its own 17. Viking quarterback Peyton Roop scores on the next play and TV goes up 21-14. Turnabout is fair play, it seems.

Tied once more.

Tri-Valley's Caleb Wilson scores on a 36-run to the right side with 9:33 remaining in the second period and the Vikings pull into a 14-14 deadlock withLena-Winslow in the 1A state championship game at Huskie Stadium, in DeKalb. Tri-Valley brings a 13-0 record into the game.

Interesting stat

After one quarter in 1A football state finals at NIU, Lena-Winslow has minus 3 yards of total offense against Tri-Valley. On the scoreboard, thanks to its defense ,Lena-Winslow leads, 14-7.

Lightning strikes. Again.

For the second time in 9:09, Lena-Winslow's Tyler Oakley returns a fumble for a TD in the 1A state finals. His second return, for 65 yards, at 2:51 of second quarter lifts the Panthers into a 14-7 lead over Tri-Valley.

Tie game in 1A

Tri-Valley scores a tying TD at 4:30 of first quarter on a Caleb Wilson 3-yard run. Kick good. 7-7.

Class 1A, Lena-Winslow vs. Tri-Valley

The unbeaten Vikings marched downfield, but fumbled and Lena-Winslow returned it 60 yards for the first score. Lena leads 7-0 @ 9:57 of first quarter.

Lena-Winslow lost its season-opener to the Cerro Gordo?DeLand-Weldon/Bement cooperative team. Tri-Valley played in the Heart of Illinois Conference and defeated playoff qualifiers from the area, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Fisher, along with LeRoy. In the postseason, the Vikings ousted Argenta-Oreana in the second round.

 

Weather update:

It was 28 degrees at kickoff. Sunny. Dry. Remnants of snow outside Huskie Stadium. Nothing inside.

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Here's my game story from the Spartans' semifinal win: http://www.news-gazette.com/sports/prep-sports/football/2013-11-23/state...

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