Coal City ready for St. Francis

COAL CITY - Coal City was ready for whichever quarterback St. Francis put in charge of that spread offense the Spartans run. The Coalers got themselves ready for the spread too.

"That spread offense, no huddle, we don't see that all the time, so our kids were running all over the place," said Coal City coach Dan Hutchings, noting his team prepared for Tommy Rittenhouse or Mike Baffa at quarterback for St. Francis. "Our defensive effort was great today."

The No. 1-seeded Coalers ended the Spartans' football season with a 25-7 victory Saturday afternoon in a Class 4A football quarterfinal. Coal City will host Richmond-Burton next weekend in the semifinal.

"That's a (heck) of a football team over there," St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said of the Coalers. "Those guys played great. They had a great defensive scheme against us. They're No. 1 for a reason in 4A, and they should go out and do what they need to do."

St. Francis (10-2), the No. 4 seed, looked at first like it was going to do what it needed to do. With Rittenhouse back at quarterback after missing four games with a broken left arm, the Spartans drove 77 yards on 7 plays on the opening possession. Rittenhouse, wearing a big cast on his lower left arm, ended the drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Ben Bettag for a 7-0 St. Francis lead.

"After that we had to settle in, which we didn't do. I (felt) after the first touchdown there was going to be many more by each team," Rittenhouse said.

Instead only Coal City (12-0) scored again.

"Tommy practiced all week with us, played well," McMillen said. "He just couldn't get into a rhythm all night. I'm sure he was playing a little nervous with his arm and everything else."

"It's obviously a distraction," Rittenhouse added about his cast. "I've got to play safer and smarter and get rid of the ball quicker and just be more conservative."

The Coalers answered the Spartans' touchdown by going 60 yards in two plays on their first drive of the game. Sophomore fullback Ashton Harvey ran 39 yards for a touchdown to make the score 7-6.

"Our kids, they bend, they don't break," Hutchings said. "We came out and we went down and we scored, so that was nice. So we answered the bell and everything. I mean, that's a heck of a football team that coach McMillen has there. Those kids play hard."

Coal City tailback Daniel Jezik plays hard too. He carried the football 36 times for 183 yards and the final three Coalers touchdowns. His 9-yard touchdown run just before halftime gave Coal City the lead for good, 13-7.

"He's the real deal," McMillen said of Jezik, an Oklahoma State wrestling recruit. "... He's as tough a runner as we've seen all season. He's a hard-nosed kid who keeps his legs grinding, and he did a really nice job for them."

Meanwhile, the Coal City defense kept the Spartans on their heels. The Spartans ran for just 83 yards, 10 in the first half. Coal City also forced five turnovers.

"That's what Coal City does, they stop the run," McMillen said. "That's what they play all year. We were hoping to be able to throw the ball on them because they don't play many teams with a spread offense like we do. Give those coaches and those kids a lot of credit. Like I said, they played really, really well."

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