Top-ranked Sacred Heart-Griffin gets playoff scare, rallies to escape Waterloo

Bill Welt
State Journal-Register

WATERLOO — Top-ranked Sacred Heart-Griffin will host a Class 4A quarterfinal as expected.  

It was anything but a cinch.  

The second-seeded Cyclones were without longtime head coach Ken Leonard who was sidelined with the flu. They trailed Waterloo by six at halftime and twice rallied from a nine-point deficit in the second half en route to a 28-16 second-round victory on Saturday.

Bryce Reese lifted 10th-seeded Waterloo (7-4) ahead 16-7 on a 69-yard TD run with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter.  

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SHG (11-0) rebounded and outscored Waterloo 21-0 in the fourth period. The Bulldogs were coming off a 76-28 win over Olney Richland County in the first round. 

SHG interim coach John Allison, who will succeed Leonard next season, said he knew his senior-laden group would come back and fight. 

“They were a good team,” Allison said of Waterloo in a radio interview with WFMB 1450 AM. “Their offense was good and they came ready to play and we needed this, honestly. It’s been a long time since we’ve played a full game. I’m glad they were a great team and I’m glad we still get to play next week, too.” 

Senior running back Richard Jackson capped a short 4-play, 36-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run to begin the fourth quarter while senior teammate Bill Sanders delivered the go-ahead, 1-yard TD run with 5:23 left on the clock — SHG's first lead of the night, 22-16. 

Senior quarterback Ty Lott cemented the win with a 67-yard TD run in front of the SHG bench with 3:06 remaining.  

“I’m pretty sure he was more nervous than I was,” Allison said of Leonard, the IHSA’s all-time winningest football coach, “because he wanted to be here with these guys. We love him and we hope he feels better and we hope he’s back next week, and we get to be at home, so that’s great.” 

SHG’s defense provided key stops late in the game.  

SHG senior linebacker Cory West tackled Evan Davis for a three-yard loss on 4th-and-short near midfield to set up Sanders’ go-ahead score. Lott then added the TD following a three-and-out.  

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Reggie Thomas and Jake Kepler each had a sack to nix Waterloo’s final possession.  

The Cyclones appeared to be in dire straits following Koby Osterhage’s interception return to the SHG 10-yard line. The Bulldogs capitalized with a Lexi Stephens field goal for a 9-0 lead with 7:29 left in the third stanza. 

Senior Colin Johannes, though, scored a 90-yard TD return on the ensuing kickoff.  

The Cyclones return to Ken Leonard Field for a 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 quarterfinal against No. 6 seed Murphysboro, which edged No. 3 Macomb 20-16.