Sophomore placekicker Justin Cole did not dress in the first two games this year for the Peoria Richwoods Knights. On the last play of the 13th game, he made what is most certainly the biggest kick in the long and storied history of Richwoods football. With darkness descending on Endres Field and dust swirling from the gale-like winds directly in his face, Cole calmly split the uprights from 19 yards out in the second overtime period to send the Richwoods Knights on to Champaign next Saturday and a shot at the Class 6A State Title. “Calm” is a misnomer as this game was anything but that.
Both teams were guilty of several mistakes, turnovers and penalties, many due in large part to the efforts of the other. However, this ballgame was a nip and tuck, back and forth, nail-biting and fiercely competitive match up that was one for the ages. Richwoods took an early lead with just four minutes gone on a spectacular run by Jeremye Johnson who went around right end and up the sideline before making an ankle breaking cut back across the field to score from 90 yards. The Knights were looking good early, but mistakes began to mount. Lemont’s Mike Anzalone, who was all he was cracked up to be and more, scored.from the five at 10:54 of the 2nd quarter to tie it at seven. The Indians got two more second quarter scores and the Knights one to make the halftime tally 21-14 in favor of Lemont. Knights’ fans were anxious, however, as the last Lemont touchdown consisted of a rather easy march down the field in less than two minutes and it seemed the Indians had control of the game.
The Knights tried a reverse on their opening play of the second half which backfired as they coughed it up at the Richwoods 28 yard line. Anzalone went off tackle four plays later to make it 28-14 in favor of the Indians and it seemed possible they were starting to run away with it. These Knights, however, having had their backs to the wall on numerous occasions this year, refused to quit and simply dug in harder and deeper. Kendrick Foster got to work with some hard nosed running and Ryan Moredock went around left end just 1:49 later from the 20 to draw Richwoods closer, 28-21 at 8:08 of the third. The previously subdued Richwoods fans were now on their feet in crazed unison shouting, “Here we go Richwoods, here we go” and “defense, defense” to help spur the players on. After some more back and forth, Mikail Davis recovered a Lemont fumble at the Knights 25. Foster then took it 57 yards down to the 13 followed by a beautiful pitch and catch fade into the corner of the end zone from Wes McCormack to Clayton Glasper. The extra point tied it at 28 with 41.7 left in the third and all bets were off. The fourth quarter ebbed and flowed with each team threatening to score, but coming away empty. Great plays were made on both sides and overtime was a very fitting conclusion to the four quarters of football just displayed on the field. In fact, the Richwoods band, having shed their uniforms and instruments in the locker room after the halftime performance as is the custom, had now reappeared on the track behind the Knights bench in their street clothes with instruments in hand and were blaring out the fight song. The Knights had the ball first and were unable to move it leading to a 25 yard field goal by Cole. Then it was Lemont’s turn, who got it to the three and on fourth down they also chose to kick the field goal to send it into a second overtime. It was now Lemont’s turn to take it first. On third down, a fade to the end zone was intercepted by none other than Mikail Davis who once again made a game saving play for the Knights. Richwoods now had it at the 10 with a chance to earn a ticket to Champaign. Two running plays left them on the left hash mark at the seven yard line. QB McCormack then made a crucial third down run around right end to the four to set up Cole in the middle of the field for the game winning kick. Jubilation ensued. The Knights are now on their way to Memorial Stadium this Saturday to face Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge for the IHSA Class 6A Title. Prairie Ridge defeated Batavia in the other semi-final today, 33-22. To be sure, the Lemont players and fans are crestfallen on their drive home this evening, but they can absolutely all be proud of the effort the team put forth today. Congratulations to them on a fine season and good luck to the Richwoods Knights !