St. Edward can't catch up to Richmond-Burton

St. Edward exhibited the element of sadness that always becomes evident near the end of high school football playoff games.

Emotions run high for teams whose championship dreams come to an end. For seniors, the reality of their last game in their school's uniform, and in most cases their last game of organized football, can hit harder and more painfully than a powerful middle linebacker.

But some of the emotions Friday night from the 11th-seeded Green Wave (6-4) were much different after a 55-26 Class 4A first-round loss at sixth-seeded Richmond-Burton (9-1). They were still dealing with the shock from the death of former teammate and 2015 graduate Dan Howell on Monday.

"To play for a brother who has fallen means everything in the world to me," said two-way St. Edward senior lineman Haydn Hilton. "I would do anything for him."

St. Edward players wore large stickers with Howell's uniform number 57 on the backs of their helmets and coaches wore them as well. Former players who graduated with Howell went from the Friday night memorial service up to Richmond for the game to lend their support.

"We lost one of our key brothers," said St. Edward senior running back Dwayne Allen Jr., who fought through a banged-up shoulder to end his record-setting career with 71 yards on 17 carries. "He was one of our best players and a good person.

"We had a lot of adversity and it was hard to focus on football, but for two to three hours it was time to release our pain."

The running of Allen led the Green Wave to a 2-yard touchdown run by sophomore Saveon Smith that cut the deficit to 13-7 with 4:29 left in the first quarter.

But the next play from scrimmage was one of seven big-play touchdowns by the Rockets as senior Joe Dittmar blasted up the middle from 61 yards. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Dittmar had just 8 carries but finished with 258 yards and three other scores from 42, 75 and 38 yards.

"I have max respect for them," Allen said. "They came out and gave us the first punch and we didn't come out like I think we should have come out and played."

Blaine Bayer started the scoring on a 43-yard run 1:33 into the game and returned 1 of his 2 interceptions 60 yards for a 41-14 lead on the second play of the second half. Carter Miller (5 carries, 104 yards) had touchdown runs of 60 and 21 yards as the Rockets started the running clock with a 55-14 lead with 2:33 to play in the third en route to a second-round matchup at No. 3 Rockford Lutheran (10-0), a 49-7 winner over Dixon.

"We had a lot of young guys on the field but they're a big football team and a good football team," said St. Edward coach Mike Rolando after R-B rushed for all 465 of its yards on just 39 carries. "It was clear we had trouble tackling the fullback from the beginning of the game. But I thought our older guys and younger guys gave everything they had."

Especially with freshman Angel Garcia starting at middle linebacker with senior Patrick Brown out. Senior two-way lineman Jake French, who suffered a concussion earlier this season, went out after he was shaken up in the first half.

But the Wave did get within 34-14 just 23 seconds before halftime when sophomore Dylan Mlinarich (18-for-35, 264 yards, 4 interceptions) hit Smith (4 catches, 124 yards) for a 46-yard touchdown pass. Smith also scored on a 7-yard run and Mlinarich hit sophomore David Madden for an 11-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Mlinarich, Garcia, Smith and Madden are part of a group of nine freshmen and sophomores who started Friday night. They also had a good foundation set for them by seniors such as Allen, Brown, French and Hilton.

"This is the best program I've ever been in and I'll miss this like I've never missed anything before," Allen said after finishing his season with 1,566 yards rushing and his three-year career with 3,614 yards and 45 touchdowns.

"This team went through a lot of adversity this year but we wanted to just play football," Hilton said. "I love playing with these guys. They are my brothers and I love every single one of them."

And they will pay their final respects to one of them today at Howell's funeral.

"We had a lot of adversity and Dan Howell was on everybody's mind," Rolando said. "The guys knew him pretty well and there were just tragic events for the guys this year, losing Fr. Ed (Seisser) early on.

"The guys played as hard as they could tonight. Our hearts are with Dan right now. We wanted to fight for him for 48 minutes and play hard for Dan."

The St. Edward football coaching staff talk to the Green Wave after their 55-26 loss at Richmond-Burton Friday night in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. Photo by Marty Maciaszek
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