Stillman Valley prepares to face a 3-time defending state champion

Sports

STILLMAN VALLEY, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — The competition gets tougher as our local football teams enter the second round of the IHSA playoffs this weekend. Stillman Valley will have one of the toughest draws.

The Cardinals will travel to Elmhurst to play the Knights of Immaculate Conception in a class 4A matchup. The Knights have won three straight state championships the last three years…one in class 4A the other two in class 3A.

“We knew they were out there and would be one of the teams we would probaby have to go through, so you do a little bit of offseason work on them and try to keep tabs on them during the season,” says Stillman Valley coach Mike Lalor.

Immaculate Conception knocked Stillman Valley out of the playoffs last year in the second round by beating the Cardinals 31-0. Two years ago I-C was the team that knocked Byron out of the semifinals on it’s way to winning a state championship.

“They lost a few people but some of the key people are back and they reloaded a little bit,” said Lalor. “They had some transfers come in and things like that, so they’re as good as they’ve been in the past if not even better.”

One of those transfers is starting quarterback Danny Cronin. He started at Oak Park Fenwick last year. This year Cronin has provided the Knights with more of a passing attack. He has passed for 1380 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also a threat running the ball.

But the key guy for Immaculate Conception is junior running back Kyle Franklin. In the state championship game last year he rushed for 227 yards. He has rushed for 1,245 yards this season, and he’s averaging 9.8 yards a carry.

“He reminds me a lot of Barry Sanders the way he runs in that he’s real patient and then all of a sudden there’s a burst,” says Lalor. “He’s very, very difficult to get off his feet. He’s just got great balance and great eyes.”

In the eyes of many people around the state Stillman Valley will go into this game as an underdog. That won’t faze the Cardinals.

“You can control what you can control, so if you can put the game plan in they (his players) can feel real confident with that. If we can go in and simply make no mental mistakes and physically do what we need to do then you can be in the game with them. If you can do that then who knows what can happen down the stretch.”

I-C’s only loss this season was in week eight to Wheaton St. Francis 20-19. Last week in the opening round of the playoffs I-C defeated Chicago Sullivan 28-0.

The 9-1 Cardinals are coming off an impressive 32-6 first round playoff win against Dixon.

Saturday’s game will kickoff at 4 p.m’ at the Plunkett Athletic Complex in Elmhurst.

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