ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Stillman Valley has won five state championships in football. Each one is equally precious, but the one that had the most thrilling ending was the Cardinals’ last one in 2013. That’s the one we focus on this week in our ‘Glory Days’ segment.
The Cardinals played St. Joseph-Ogden in DeKalb on a windy, frosty evening. St. Joe’s passing game was potent, but so was Stillman’s running game. Both offenses dominated.
Micah Castronovo was the first Cardinal to score on an eight-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. All-State fullback Zac Hare scored two more touchdowns in the second and third quarters, but the Cardinals still found themselves trailing with less than six minutes to play in the fourth quarter when St. Joseph-Ogden quarterback Dalton Walsh connected with Hunter Hart for a 22 yard touchdown. It was 35-28 Spartans. Walsh passed for three touchdowns that day.
But back came the Cardinals. With 1:19 to play Hare scored his third touchdown from a yard out capping off a 12-play drive. It was 35-35 and headed to overtime.
In overtime the Cardinals had the ball first, and you knew they were going to Hare. He again powered in for a touchdown. Moments later he added the two-point conversion. Stillman led 43-35, but St. Joseph-Ogden answered with a touchdown run to slice the lead to two. So it came down to a two-pont conversion attempt by SJO. Walsh dropped back to pass and he immeidately was smothered by a blitzing Logan Alberts with help from Eddie Torrance and that sealed the deal.
The Cardinals won 43-41 in overtime. State Championship number five was in the bag!
Stillman Valley FB/LB Zac Hare joined me on ‘Overtime’ to discuss that game. To hear that interview click on the media player or continue reading.
[INTERVIEW WITH ZAC HARE]
(SCOTT) Zac there were so many big plays in that game and it was such a back-and-forth game. It was fitting that it went into overtime. Of all those plays and all those moments which one stands out the most to you?
(ZAC HARE) “I think definitely the last one. Even though I wasn’t necessarily involved in it. I was able to kind of be back there and watched all of our work pay off all in one moment. It was something that was super special for all of us.”
(SCOTT) So that was the failed conversion attempt by St. Joseph-Ogden. Did you get a good look at Logan Alberts firing off the line, and were you at all surprised that he would be the guy to make that play getting the sack?
(HARE) “I was on the field. I was right behind Logan and I wasn’t surprised at all. Logan is still one of my best friends these days and just how tough he is and to be able to just kind of squirt through that line and make that play, it was awesome.”
(SCOTT) Do you recall what your coaches called on defense on that conversion attempt, what the plan was defensively?
(HARE) “Not exactly what was called, but I know we did kind of throw in something different where we did a little bit of a twist where Logan actually went through a different hole than he was hitting all game long, so I took the lineman on that one and he was able to get through and make that play.”
(SCOTT) On offense the coaches kept feeding you the football throughout the game. You had 39 carries, so it was no surprise to anyone that you would get the ball again in overtime. How determined were you in overtime to get into the endzone for both the touchdown and the conversion?
(HARE) “Absolutely! We were all determined knowing the last two scores were necessary. Not getting in was not an option that day, so in that overtime situation we just had to get it done.”
(SCOTT) You mentioned the line…there was Wyatt Stockton, Thom Hess, Orion Peterson, Chris Brauns, Connor Engelkess. You had a pretty big, physical group on that line that year didn’t you?
(HARE) “I did. I wouldn’t say necessarily big, but it was absolutely physical. I had the privilege to kind of stand behind those guys and watch them move kids that were bigger than them, so it was impressive to watch and like I always say the credit always goes to them.”
(SCOTT) What made your performance that game even more impressive was the fact you were playing injured. How banged up were you?
(HARE) “It was a long season. I had dealt with a shoulder problem all year and an ankle situation late, but at the end of the day you just had to put that past you and just grind through it. We had a lot of other guys that were just as banged up as I was.”
(SCOTT) In a championship game the adrenalin is running sky high, and you’re going toe-to-toe with a great team for four quarters. Then you’ve got to somehow dial it up again and find the energy to battle in overtime. How exhausted were you guys?
(HARE) “I think it was a collection of all year. We had a very tough game leading up to the State game, so we were all exhausted, but at the end of the day we all had to look at it from the standpoint of this is going to be for a lot of us our last game of football that we ever played competitively, so we just had to finish strong.”
(SCOTT) One of the things coach (Mike) Lalor mentioned after the game was what a great life-lesson a game like that could be about never giving up, never giving in, and he hoped that that would be something all of you guys would take forward and apply to the rest of your lives. So can you to this day draw from that experience? Can you say you’re a better person today for having played high school football and for having been a Stillman Valley Cardinal?
(HARE) “Absolutely! I think the two words we carried with us were just discipline and adversity. We were ones who had to fight for everything that we earned, and I can honestly say we became better people off the field, and I think that carries into a lot of our professions to this day.”
NOTE: Zac Hare now works as a sheriff’s deputy in Ogle County.