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Going 'home' to Champaign
By Dave Oberhelman | Daily Herald Staff

Driscoll's Anthony Cucci gives a Coal City defender the brush-off during Saturday's 41-14 victory.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

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Published: 11/18/2007 6:47 AM

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Officially, the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium is a neutral site for the Illinois state football championships.

Driscoll's 41-14 Class 4A semifinal win over Coal City in Addison, however, means the Highlanders roll on to their home away from home in Champaign for a bid at a seventh straight state title.

Following Driscoll's fourth running-clock victory of the playoffs and eighth of the year -- it led 41-0 at 7:17 of the third quarter -- coach Mike Burzawa was asked where his 13-0 squad ranks among teams past.

Like tailback Tim Franken hurdling a would-be tackler, Burzawa skirted an answer.

"We're clicking on all cylinders right now," he said. "We're happy with that, we're happy with the execution. It's probably right up there, but that remains to be seen."

In Champaign Driscoll will face a fellow unbeaten No. 1 seed in Bloomington Central Catholic, a last-minute 35-34 winner over downstate Mt. Carmel, Driscoll's 2-time championship victim. Driscoll beat BCC 28-12 last year in a second-round game.

Saturday against No. 2 seed Coal City at Robert A. Barth Field, it took a quarter for the Highlanders offense to really gel. The defense was staunch to start, until the Coalers (12-1) scored 2 fourth-quarter touchdowns against the second-team defense.

Executing the plan devised by coaches Brandon New, Joe Petro and Pat Ryan, the first unit led by linebackers Adam Davis and Mark Balaskovits held Coalers tailback Noah Roseland -- who came in with 1,701 yards, 27 touchdowns -- to minus-6 yards on 11 carries by halftime.

"During film he looked really fast, so we had to key on that," said Davis, who also blocked a punt when given the green light by special teams coach Dan Cepek.

"And then where they lined up," Davis said, "we knew exactly what they were running."

"They're in a different league than all of us," said Roseland, whose late touchdown runs of 2 and 12 yards helped bulk up his stats to 61 yards on 23 carries.

Driscoll took a 6-0 first-quarter lead when Franken sprinted for an 83-yard score, but the Highlanders didn't truly click until Franken hurdled Coal City's Timm Kroeger on a 30-yard screen pass from David Schwabe.

After a holding penalty Franken ran a draw 52 yards to score. Phil Albreski's kick gave Driscoll a 13-0 lead at 7:44 of the second quarter.

"He's the man," Schwabe said of his fellow 4A all-state selection. "He gets us going."

"I thought he was diving for my legs and I want to avoid my legs getting hit so I jumped in the air," said Franken, who earned 186 yards on only 9 carries.

"Yeah, it seemed like it really boosted our enthusiasm and it was good that the team reacted to it. Then we started rolling from there."

Joey Calabrese's interception set up wide-open Travis Kristie's 33-yard touchdown catch, and Franken's 2-yard touchdown run gave Driscoll a 27-0 halftime lead.

"We just came out ready to play today," Kristie said.

Coal City's defense again lost its pass coverage on Clay Cooper's 24-yard touchdown catch on the Highlanders' first possession of the second half. Schwabe capped Driscoll's scoring a series later on a 10-yard quarterback draw.

Driscoll's scoring drives ranged from 10 seconds to a high of 2:10.

"They just put some points on the board in a rush, and that's what they do," said Coal City coach Lenny Onsen. "Hey, we were out-manned and that's all I can say."