CHAMPAIGN — There isn’t anything a high school player can do to prepare for playing in a state championship game at Memorial Stadium. Everything is bigger, it can be hard to find your footing initially.
Even Prairie Ridge’s phenomenal quarterback, junior Samson Evans, needed a little while to settle down.
“At first it was getting to me,” Evans said. “I don’t know what was going on.”
Evans fumbled on the Wolves’ second drive and Sacred Heart-Griffin returned it 66 yards for a touchdown and a ten-point lead. But that turned out to be a small road bump on the way to Prairie Ridge’s second Class 6A state title, as the Wolves turned things on to roll to a 48-17 victory.
Evans scored on an 80-yard touchdown run just 14 seconds after the fumble.
“That definitely gave me a load of confidence,” Evans said. “Once that play hit I knew if we kept executing we could really do something special.”
Evans had 24 carries for 274 yards, a Class 6A title game record. He scored four rushing touchdowns and connected with Austen Ferbet for a 28-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.
“[Evans] is special,” Sacred Heart-Griffin coach Ken Leonard said. “He’s one of the best high school runners we’ve faced. [Joliet Catholic’s] Ty Isaac was pretty special a couple years back.”
Prairie Ridge (14-0) was dominant on the ground, rushing for 544 yards, a Class 6A title game record. Emmanuel Ebririm had 21 carries for 134 yards and Zach Gulbransen added 12 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown.
“Samson had an unbelievable, record-setting game,” Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp said. “But it was all 11 guys being really good today.”
The Wolves shut out the Cyclones (13-1) for the final 29 minutes of the game.
“The defensive line plugged up the middle, shut down the run,” Prairie Ridge linebacker Jacob Ommen said. “That made it easier for the defensive backs to make some plays so we could get some good stops.”
Sacred Heart-Griffin managed just 314 total yards.
“Having to beat Montini and Sacred Heart-Griffin to win the state championship, that is amazing,” Schremp said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet.”