Aptly nicknamed the Coalers, Coal City’s football team relentlessly pounded, dug and chiseled away at St. Edward’s defense all game Saturday until the Green Wave finally caved in during Saturday’s Class 4A playoffs at Elgin’s Greg True Field.
With Jack Dibble rushing 40 times for 304 yards and four touchdowns, Coal City scored a 25-20 victory to end St. Edward’s season at 10-1 and advance to the quarterfinals against conference rival Manteno.
“They were just too big for us — they were big dudes,” St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. “Our kids tried their hardest, played great, but (Coal City) just brought a little too much.”
St. Edward overcame deficits of 7-0 and 19-14 to lead 20-19 starting the fourth quarter behind the passing of quarterback Joe Mullen, who connected on nine straight passes during a second-half stretch and finished 15-of-28 for 194 yards with two touchdowns. But Coal City’s Dibble rushed for 223 of his yards in the second half to lead the Coalers (9-2) back from 14-7 and 20-19 deficits.
“It’s that way some games,” Dibble said. “We come and we try get things going. They know we’re going to run, but as the game goes on we continue to beat on people, we continue to run hard, we continue to block hard.
“And teams just get tired out.”
After Mullen hit Trevor Loewen for a 21-yard touchdown pass for a 20-19 St. Edward lead, the Coalers went back to work pounding the ball behind 285-pound Matt Long, 275-pound Andrew Mathena and 265-pound T.J. Lightner. They drove 65 yards on nine runs to score on Dibble’s 17-yard burst for a 25-20 lead with 8:36 left.
“He’s a great runner,” St. Edward linebacker Chris Kelly said. “We would go and take on the lead blocker, we’d leave him no hole to go through. He’s not small but he could hit those small holes and slither through there.”
St. Edward had good field position at its 44 to try to regain the lead, but Mullen lost the ball on a fumble after a blind-side blitz by Kevin Myers. When he got the ball back and drove St. Edward to midfield with 5:12 left, Corey Jurzak picked off a long pass at the 18-yard line. The Coalers never gave it back with a drive to the St. Edward 2-yard line as time expired.
“We didn’t want to give them the ball with a minute-anything left because they were very dangerous and could make some plays,” Coal City coach Len Onsen said. “We were trying to eat clock, eat clock and get the heck out of Dodge.”
Dibble scored on a 2-yard run after a Brad Littleton interception had given the Coalers the ball at St. Edward’s 36 with three minutes left in the half, but the Green Wave countered with Dwayne Allen’s 3-yard TD run to end a 71-yard two-minute drill and trailed 7-6 following a blocked conversion.
Allen, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards, was limited to 23 yards on 21 carries, so Mullen went to the air and 6-foot-4 Nick Duffy six times total for 110 yards.
“He’s been my receiver since we were sophomores,” Mullen said. “I felt like when it came to that time, it was time to go to Nick.”
Duffy stole a 23-yard completion from Jurzak to set up Mullen’s 1-yard QB sneak, but that started four TDs in the last 5:01 of the third quarter.
Dibble broke a 28-yard TD, and, after a St. Edward punt, he got loose for a 33-yard TD run and a 19-14 Coaler lead.
A Saveon Smith 63-yard kick return set up Loewen’s TD catch, and Joe French’s point-after kick for a 20-19 St. Edward lead with 28 seconds left in the third quarter. But Coal City kept pounding away.
“There were a lot of big collisions, a lot of big hits,” Kelly said. “We did a good job of just getting after their back. It definitely was the most physical game I’ve ever played.”