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Johnsburg’s Connor Bell (3) and Austin Butler (25) celebrate after taking the lead from Phillips. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

O’Brien: Johnsburg shocks Phillips in overtime

SHARE O’Brien: Johnsburg shocks Phillips in overtime
SHARE O’Brien: Johnsburg shocks Phillips in overtime

Phillips knocked Johnsburg out of the playoffs the past two years. On Friday it felt like the entire town had one singular focus: to avenge those defeats and finally beat the Wildcats.

It took overtime, but the scrappy, undefeated Skyhawks pulled it off. Johnsburg defeated Phillips, the defending state champs, 23-20 in overtime in the Class 4A state semifinals.

“This is an amazing feeling,” Johnsburg’s Joe Calhoun said. “We knew we could do this and this is what we thought about back in the summer when we started.”

Johnsburg kicker Adam Jayko’s 25-yard field goal was the game winner. Phillips won the overtime coin toss and elected to start on defense.

Phillips lost three yards on its first offensive play of the overtime, then threw two incomplete passes. On fourth down quarterback J’Bore Gibbs scrambled to the right, searching in vain for an open receiver. He tried to scramble but was pulled down quickly.

“We just made too many mistakes, had too many bad possessions and committed too many turnovers,” Phillips coach Troy McAllister said. “It was just one of those games.”

Phillips dominated the stat sheet, but gave the ball away at crucial times.

Wildcats running back Kamari Mosby had 37 carries for 249 yards including a spectacular 61-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to put Phillips ahead 6-0. But Mosby also fumbled twice in the first quarter.

“We just knew we had to make every tackle and we had to make every play count,” Calhoun said.

The Skyhawks (13-0) capitalized on both turnovers. Johnsburg quarterback Riley Buchanan scored on a three-yard run after the first fumble and then on a 13-yard run after the second.

Johnsburg led 20-14 a the half. The third quarter was scoreless. Mosby scored on a two-yard run with 11:29 to play to tie the game at 20. Phillips failed on the two-point conversion attempt.

“Their defense was better than ours and that is on the coaching staff,” McAllister said.

Gibbs was 8-for-15 for 99 yards passing with one touchdown and no interceptions for the Wildcats. Junior Craig Elmore had 10 carries for 94 yards.

Johnsburg’s star running back Alex Peete was limited to just 18 yards on 13 carries. Buchanan finished 4-for-21 and threw three interceptions and one touchdown, a 61-yard pass to Nico LoDolce.

The atmosphere was electric, with a brutal wind throughout the game and a wintry mix falling in the fourth quarter. The game was the biggest sporting event in Johnsburg since 2003, when John Smith led the Skyhawks to the Class AA state tournament in basketball, where they lost to Glenbrook North and Jon Scheyer.

McAllister didn’t think his players were rattled: “We’ve seen it before.”

Johnsburg will play the Rochester-Canton winner in the Class 4A state title game on Friday in Champaign.

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