Nov. 28th 1pm @ Memorial Stadium U of I
While Stillman may be a new comer to being a football powerhouse, they are no flash in the pan & most likely will be around for awhile under head coach Mike Lalor.
Stillman Valley's only loss this season came at the hands of cross conference rivalByron. While Byron finished 8-3 in 4A this year, this loss is more a reflection of the team Stillman Valley played & the rivalry between them than a testament to a possible weakness in the squad.
The Cardinals plan of attack is a balanced rushing game, they've gained over 3000 yards on the ground this season. Brock Hall, Ken Hobby & Keith Saunders have gained most of those yards while Bryce Alderks (jr. QB 6' 180) has been known to run the ball himself (344 yards rushing) it's his passing that helps keep the defense from stuffing the line. Alderks has been on the mark for most of the season. He's completed 54% of his passes throwing for 1476 yards with 8 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. Ken Hooby is Alderks primary receiver, pulling in about a third of the passes his QB has thrown and accounting for more than two thirds of his completion's.
The offense's only downside is they sometimes have a ball control problem. In the 13 games this season they've fumbled 25 times and lost it 18. In a close game if Wilmington could capitalize on that turn over, it could be the score that puts them ahead.
On defense the Cardinals are lead by Chase Hermann (124 tackles), Gunanrd Theden (84 tackles) & Brock Hall who stands in at linebacker as well as fullback.
The Wildcats after suffering a close loss in a very heated game last year to eventual State Champs Elmhurst (Immaculate Conception) cam back this season with a vengeance. And that vengeance is seen in the eyes of it's defense. Whether or not the Wildcats can stop the rushing attack of Stillman Valley is one thing. The outlook is that the Cardinals most likely will not be getting their average of 237 yards a game, but may give Wilmington more than they're use to.
The Wildcats defense which has been lead by junior stand out Tony Vercelli (WB/ILB 5'10 206) has barley allowed twice of what Stillman Valley would have gained in two games, let alone the whole season, but of course that is why both of those teams are in the Finals.
While it's may be a bad bet to take the under on the rushing yards if you were to go by Wilmington's 47 yards allowed average, it won't be that hard to say that both of these teams will need to work flawlessly on their own sides of the ball.
While it might not matter to Stillman Valley this year, but the scariest thing about this Wildcats' team could be the "Wait until next year" factor. Wilmington's starters are made up of primarily juniors, and while that inexperience could help out the Cardinals, the idea of the Wildcats returning next season as 3A State Champs may have those in the Interstate Eight as well as the rest of 3A, shaking in their boots.
Either way, the Cats are holding opponents to less than 6 points a game (no one has scored more than 14 points against them) & just a 103 yards of total offense. On top of that they've only turned the ball over 12 times in the season and are deadly once inside the redzone.
If they don't get in a on Vercelli rush, QB Tanner Roark may slip in himself, or if they don't quite make it to the redzone in a close game they could leave it up to kicker Shane Longest, which is his real name and not just a description of his kicking. Longest has been their kicker since last year and is just one field goal away from being tied for 5th on the career field goal list in Illinois. His longest this year is from 47 yards out.
On offense it's a lot of misdirection & options, as wing backs Vercelli & Jon Niehls get the ball most of the time. Roark will go to the air to mix it up a bit, but with Vercelli, Niehls & fullback Marc Harrison pounding the ball they haven't needed to air it out that often.