'Definitely a dynasty': Lena-Winslow runs past Carrollton for fifth IHSA state title

Jay Taft
Rockford Register Star

DEKALB — Senior halfback Marey Roby and the Lena-Winslow Panthers saved some of their best for last, and there was nothing Carrollton could do about it.

Roby took over early on, rushing for over 213 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone Saturday. He eventually juked, slashed and cut his way to 241 yards on the ground while leading Le-Win to its fifth Class 1A state title since 2010 with a 38-25 win over Carrollton.

"This is definitely a dynasty," said Roby, who is one of four players who started for the Panthers when they won their last state title in 2019. "We have the best coaches in the state, so we knew we just had to follow the game-plan.

"We just ran the ball right down their throats."

'Big, strong, fast':Dominant offensive line leads Lena-Winslow to football state title

Even with Roby running roughshod on the Hawks, it was a back-and-forth battle early on. That was because Carrollton (12-2) let loose on all-state quarterback Grant Pohlman, who finished 9-for-24 for 111 yards with a pair of touchdowns through the air while also rushing for 156 yards and two TDs.

"This was just a great game, and my hats are off to Carrollton and that quarterback," Le-Win (12-2) coach Ric Arand said. "They gave us all we could handle. ... I don't know about them, but I was nervous."

Lena-WInslow players pour ice on coach Ric Arand after winning the 
 IHSA Class 1A football championship game on Friday, November 26, 2021 at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

The Panthers fumbled on the Carrollton 14 on their first possession and threw an interception into the end zone on their third. Then Le-Win muffed and fumbled a punt on the final play of the first quarter

"I had to keep telling them numerous times in the huddle,' Arand said, "'We're OK, we're OK.'"

And eventually they were. Le-Win led just 14-7 midway through the second quarter, but Roby's first big run of the day started to break it open. He used a jump-cut move, three different times, and was off the races, stretching the gap until making the end zone on a 45-yard sprint TD.

Live recap: Lena-Winslow beats Carrollton for fifth 1A title

"This was definitely a battle of two determined teams that were certainly going to leave it all on the field," Carrollton coach Nick Flowers said. "We had a tough time stopping that Roby. He can move laterally just as fast as he can get down field. He was cutting back on us, and he got us."

Pohlman answered Roby's TD with another of his own, but by the time the senior tailback from Le-Win busted free for a 47-yard score in the final minute of the first half, the Panthers were taking over.

Le-Win led 30-19 at half. And while Carrollton sliced it to 30-25 late in the third, Le-Win answered with a 13-play, 62-yard drive that put it away. QB Luke Benson dove in from 1 yard out to seal the deal.

"It was definitely a lot calmer this time around. We were ready," said Benson, who was also the starting QB for the 2019 state champs from Le-Win. "We knew that if we were going to win it all, we were going to have to take what we want.

"We took it."

Lena-WInslow's Marey Roby runs past the Carrollton defense in the IHSA Class 1A football championship game on Friday, November 26, 2021 at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

Roby finished the season with 1,746 rushing yards with 23 TDs Of those, 976 yards and 16 TDs came in five postseason games. He closed out his career with 2,546 yards and 33 touchdowns, even more impressive when you take into account that he missed all but one quarter of action in the spring season, his junior year.

Brody Mahon, who came into the game leading the team with 73 tackles, four tackles for loss and and four interceptions, led the Panthers' defensive charge with eight tackles, four for loss, and a sack Saturday.

Le-Win rattled off 434 total yards of offense to just 304 for the Hawks.

"We always knew it was in our future to win it all," Mahon said. "But we had to go out and get it. Right now, it's all finally paying off."

It's the 10th state title for an NUIC team since 2010, but these Panthers became the first NUIC squad to claim back-to-back championships. They went 14-0 and won it both in 2019 and 2017.

Jay Taft: jtaft@rrstar.com; @JayTaft