DeKALB — A Fox Valley legend was born Saturday. Cary-Grove used its triple-option offense to upset East St. Louis and Luther Burden, the top team and top player in the state.
The victory was so sweet that Trojans running back Nick Hissong had a big smile on his face during the postgame news conference despite suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament on one of the last plays.
Hissong (32 carries, 224 yards, two TDs) and quarterback Jameson Sheehan (20 carries, 104 yards, three TDs) were the offensive stars in Cary-Grove’s 37-36 victory against the Flyers in the Class 6A state title game at Huskie Stadium.
East St. Louis’ high-powered offense had the ball in Cary-Grove territory in the final minute. Flyers quarterback Robert “Pops” Battle, a sophomore, was scrambling to make something happen, but his throw wound up in the hands of Trojans senior Noah Riley, normally a tight end. Riley’s interception sealed the win.
“That was the only play of defense I was actually in for,” Riley said. “Coach told me to cover Burden and follow him wherever he goes.”
Burden had six catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns and returned a kickoff for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to pull East St. Louis (11-3) within one. He was as dangerous as advertised.
“He exceeded every expectation I had,” Cary-Grove linebacker Toby Splitt said. “He’s very fast, physical, and he moves very well.”
The Flyers’ other two losses this season came to nationally ranked out-of-state teams. They weren’t significantly challenged by any team in Illinois until Cary-Grove (14-0) in the title game.
“I’d take our kids anywhere, any day,” Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. “The amount of competitiveness and grit is just amazing. Sometimes the ball bounces your way. We were just fortunate on that last possession that the ball bounced our way.”
Each team scored five touchdowns, but the Flyers don’t kick extra points. They failed on two two-point conversions.
“I just hope someone up north knocks these guys off next year, so we don’t have to see the triple option again,” East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett joked.
It’s the third state title for Cary-Grove (14-0), which also won Class 6A in 2009 and 2018.