Class 1A: Alexis United (11-2) vs. Stockton (12-1)
-- Game time: 1 p.m. today in the second of four state-championship games scheduled at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
-- State histories: Being a first-year school created from the merger between Alexis and Monmouth Warren, this is obviously United's first time at state. In the first 2A title game in 1974, coach John Elder's Alexis Cardinals finished second with a 15-6 loss to Decatur St. Teresa. Alexis kicker Mike McKeague booted two field goals (30, 25 yards) in that game, a record that still stands.
Stockton's state history is a little more colorful. Under longtime coach John O'Boyle, the Blackhawks captured state crowns in 1978 (Class 2A) and 1991 (Class 1A), and placed second in '75 and '77, both in 2A. This is their first title-game appearance under coach Brad Fox.
-- The coaches: United's Tim Engebretson sports a career record of 109-29 in 12 years, 11 with Monmouth Warren. Stockton's Fox is 38-33 in seven seasons with the Blackhawks.
-- Players to watch -- United: Senior fullback/linebacker Greg McGraw (who also plays defensive tackle for the Lincoln Trail Conference runner-up Red Storm) is the main man on both sides of the football. Offensively, he has racked up 1,304 yards on 164 carries, rushed for 14 TDs, averages 7.95 yards per carry and has scored 106 points (including a pair of two-point PATs), topping his team in all categories. McGraw has 1,451 total yards and 15 TDs. He's also the Red Storm's top tackler with 117 total stops, including 14 sacks.
Defensively, senior linebacker Eric Hanson is right behind McGraw with 105 tackles, followed closely by fellow senior LB Drew Johnson with 101 stops.
Strong postseasons have bolstered the rushing totals of senior halfbacks Tyler Nelson (889 yards on 114 carries, eight TDs) and Jared VanFleet (861 yards on 119 carries, 10 TDs, 66 points scored), with sophomore Corey Rundle providing an extra dimension with 470 yards on 79 totes and two TDs.
Junior Aaron Gavin, third on the team with 57 points scored, is a fifth rushing threat and is a capable placekicker, having hit on 33 of 39 PAT attempts and 4 of 8 field goals, his longest being a 30-yarder. Drew Johnson is United's top receiver with nine catches for 157 yards and three TDs. Senior quarterback Zach Youngquist has thrown for 501 yards and seven TDs.
-- Players to watch -- Stockton: The 1-2 senior punch of quarterback Andy Jordan and running back Kyle Korth has sparked the Blackhawks, co-champions of the Northwest Upstate Illini Conference's North Division (the team they shared the crown with, Dakota, fell 34-15 to Stockton in the second round).
Jordan has completed 77 of 140 passes for 1,051 yards and nine touchdowns against five interceptions, with his top receivers being Korth (26 catches, 444 yards, five TDs) and senior end Brady Wolfe (22 catches, 376 yards, six TDs). On the ground, Korth has racked up 1,025 yards on 186 carries -- more than twice the carries of the second-leading rusher, Nick Langfield (85-474, 3 TDs) --and has scored 14 TDs, giving him a team-high 140 points scored.
Korth is also a force defensively from his linebacker slot with 92 tackles, topped only by fellow senior LB Darin Oppold's 149 tackles.
Class 2A: Sterling Newman (12-1) vs. Carthage (13-0)
-- Game time: 10 a.m. today in the first of four title games at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
-- State histories: This is the fifth appearance in the state finals for Newman's Comets (the first at the 2A level), who scored Class 1A state titles in 1990 and '94 and 1A runner-up trophies in '93 and '98. Carthage has reached the title game nine times, winning 1A titles in 1995, 1998, '99 and 2000 and taking second in 1A in '84 and '88 and in 2A in 2002 and 2003.
-- The coaches: Newman's Mike Papoccia is 198-72 in his 25th year with the Comets. Carthage's Jim Unruh, a Moline native, is 191-33 in 19 seasons with the Blueboys.
-- Players to watch -- Newman: Senior Clayton Norberg and sophomore Chris Welty provide the Comets with a 1-2 backfield punch. Norberg has rushed for 919 yards on 144 carries and scored 14 TDs for 98 points, topped only by Welty's 100 points, which goes with his 711 yards and 14 TDs on 140 carries -- coming off the bench. Senior quarterback Chris Salvatori has thrown for 357 yards and seven TDs, and rushed for 337 yards and seven scores.
Defensively, junior linebacker Mike Lemay is the leader with 89 tackles, supported by Norberg (68 stops, five sacks) and senior lineman Charlie McGinn (60 stops, six sacks). Additionally, punter Jacob Harrison (35 yards per kick) adds an extra dimension, with his longest punt being 65 yards.
-- Players to watch -- Carthage: Senior fullback David Watts, a four-year varsity starter for Unruh, is the focal point of the Blueboy offense with 1,440 yards on 180 carries and 19 TDs (20 total for 122 points), but junior halfback Ryan Biddenstadt isn't too far behind, with 1,107 yards and 15 TDs on 112 totes and a team-best 132 points. Fellow RB Brock Edris adds 780 yards and 17 TDs, and quarterback Zach Reed has thrown for 627 yards and 11 TDs.
Defensively, senior end Jack Rogers leads the way with 72 tackles and six QB sacks, part of a balanced Carthage `D' that has gotten 70 stops from senior noseguard Savas Melidas and a 50-tackle, 11-sack season from senior end Bryan Huff.
Class 3A: Bureau Valley (13-0) vs. Addison Driscoll (11-2)
-- Game time: 7 tonight in the finale of a state-title quadruple-header at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
-- State histories: This is the first title-game trip for Bureau Valley, but one of the four school districts that merged in 1995 to form BV -- Walnut -- has been here before, taking second in the 1A finals in 1982 with a 7-6 loss to Zeigler-Royalton. Addison Driscoll comes in having won the last three Class 4A state crowns, and has a 3A title in 1991 to its credit as well.
-- The coaches: Bureau Valley's Jason Kirby is 41-14 in his fifth year with the Storm, and sports a 53-21 lifetime mark in a seven-year career that includes two seasons at Jacksonville Routt. Driscoll's Tim Racki is 75-13 in seven years with the Highlanders.
-- Players to watch -- Bureau Valley: Senior quarterback Brad Monier has been on fire throughout the postseason and has accumulated 1,101 rushing yards on 149 carries and 16 TDs while completing 53 of 98 passes for 819 yards and 11 TDs, giving him a team-best 166 points scored.
Running backs Preston Jones (930 yards, 15 TDs) and Ben Doty (607 yards, 12 TDs) ably augment Monier in the Storm backfield. Doty is also the top receiver with 275 yards on 17 catches, followed by sophomore Garrett Barnas with 243 yards on 14 catches and three TDs. Defensively, linebackers Jeremy Marlowe (119 tackles) and Preston Jones (108) set the pace, with lineman Spencer Yates adding 91 stops and 10 sacks.
-- Players to watch -- Driscoll: Senior running back Ryan Meyer is the catalyst for the Highlander offense, having rushed for 1,087 yards on 199 carries and scored 16 TDs for a team-high 98 points. Starting quarterback Phil Pedi has thrown for 670 yards and six TDs, with reserve QB Dustin Miller throwing for 806 yards and five scores. Their top target is junior wideout John Tranchitella, who has 18 catches for 507 yards and six TDs. Placekicker Rick Albreski is 43 of 46 on PATs and 10 of 20 on field goals, including a 58-yarder.
Defensively, the trio of Shane Franken (71 tackles, eight sacks), Kyle Jenkins (68 tackles, nine sacks) and Danny Grieco (64 tackles, nine sacks) are the leaders, with Jenkins and Grieco shining in the line and Franken starring at linebacker.