CASEY, ILL. —
Casey-Westfield High School did not come close to scoring its season average of better than 40 points in Illinois Class 1A football playoff action Saturday, but one touchdown was enough to win and advance to the Elite Eight again.
Senior quarterback Nicco Stepina got loose on a 63-yard run to score the touchdown with 15 seconds to play, defeating Carrollton 6-0 in their second playoff game at Sinclair-Vidoni Field.
The Warriors figure to play the rest of their playoff games on the road, starting with Tri-Valley in the third round. Tri-Valley defeated Argenta Oreana 23-7 on Saturday.
Carrollton elected to punt on its last possession and Casey began what turned out to be the winning drive on its own 17-yard line with 38.9 seconds showing on the clock.
Stepina ran the football for a first down to the 28 and ran for nine more to the 37.
Stepina talked about the next play following the contest played in sunny, cool conditions.
“I took off, almost stumbled, got back up and scored. We have a lot of work to do. We can't expect to win scoring six points,” he said.
“It was one of those days when nothing works right until the end. He's a special talent,” said coach Jim Sullivan.
Carrollton was penalized five yards on its final possession and Stepina clinched Casey's victory, intercepting a Hail Mary pass thrown by Cole Brannan, sophomore quarterback who ran the offense in the second half.
Stepina finished with 142 yards rushing on 19 carries, accounting for all but 19 of his team's net rushing total. He also completed 5 of 12 passes for 66 yards.
Both teams had extended drives to get into red-zone territory in the contest. Both teams also lost the ball twice on fumbles.
Casey got to the Carrollton 7 to close out the third canto, driving 73 yards to do it and ending it with a pass play that was close to being successful.
The Warriors also got to the Hawks’ 27 on their first possession, receiving the opening kickoff.
Carrollton drove to the Casey 31 in the first half when starting quarterback Jacob Smith was sacked for a 17-yard loss.
The Hawks were at the Casey 21 in the second half but failed to get first-down yardage, then drove to the 12 before giving the ball up on downs.
“We talk to our kids all the time about blocking and tackling. Football is a game of blocking and tackling. At times, we did not block well. We'll get back to work on Monday,” said Sullivan.
“I thought both teams played great defensively. We had those turnover early … the kids did not respond well. We had a shot at the end. Luck was on our side.”
Carrollton 0 0 0 0 — 0
Casey 0 0 0 6 — 6
Casey — Stepina 63 run (kick failed) 10.6 4Q
First downs 11 12
Rushes-yards 46-161 37-181
Passing yards 24 66
Comp-Att-Int 3-7-1 5-12-0
Return yards 47 0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Punts-avg 3-38 4-39
Penalties-yards 3-36 3-27
Rushing — Carrollton, Jacob Smith 9-(-21), Cody Leonard 1-3, Luke Palan 21-131, Cole Brannan 14-48. Casey, Nicco Stepina 19-142, Ethan Lucas 2-15, Austin Glidewell 10-19, Trey Thompson 4-10, Zack Murphy 1-(-2), team 1-(-3).
Passing — Carrollton, Smith 0-3, Brannan 3-4-1 24. Casey, Stepina 5-12-0 66.
Receiving — Carrollton, Leonard 2-24. Casey, Murphy 2-39, Glidewell 1-0, Lucas 1-9, Cory Carver 1-18.
Next — Casey (11-0) advances to the Elite Eight of the Class 1A playoffs and will play at Tri-Valley on Friday or Saturday at a time to be announced. Carrollton concludee a 9-2 season.