The Confederation Chargers were just a matter of minutes away from handing the defending champion Lo-Ellen Park Knights their one and only loss of the 2022 SDSSAA Senior Boys Football season.
This coming Friday, they will get another crack at pulling the upset.
While the Knights looked every bit the part of the top-ranked team in the league, coasting through the semi-finals with a 20-0 shutout of the Lively Hawks, the Chargers needed every last bit of resiliency in their arsenal to stymie the St Charles College Cardinals 14-12 in the remaining matchup last Friday.
“Our goal was to shut down their passing game and make them run - which we did,” noted Confederation head coach Shane Hutchinson. “But they had a lot of success on the ground early. We didn’t expect them to come out that physical. Their offensive line really came off the ball, making great blocks.”
The net effect was a 12-7 halftime lead for the Cards as Nick McGee kicked a pair of field goals while Blake Ramalho also recorded a touchdown. Confederation countered with a 45 yard strike on a seam pass from Braedan Beggs to Kohen Crane.
The scoreboard remained unchanged until the fourth quarter when Beggs capped off a Chargers drive, calling an audible deep in St Charles territory and finding linebacker turned slotback Logan Carr on the receiving end of the game-winning score.
Interceptions in the final few minutes by both Eric Koiengu and Quentin Harris sealed the victory for Confederation, setting up a rematch of the teams which battled it out in week two.
Back in mid-September, Lo-Ellen prevailed 13-10, coming from behind late as Quin Mazzuchin hauled in a Steven Sola pass for the win. Hutchinson and company know exactly what they are up against come Friday.
“Lo-Ellen is undefeated, defending champs - they’ve earned the right to be number one,” he said. “We have to earn everything through our play. We’ve stared adversity in the face and come back.”
The early semi-final would see Steven Sola and Jaeden Dulaney combine for a pair of long pass and run scores, the second one covering 81 yards as Lo-Ellen took care of business against Lively. Calen Jutila added a third TD reception for the Knights and also registered a two-point conversion on the final major of the game.
After enjoying a very impressive summer campaign developing a great deal of chemistry with the quarterback who joined him for the high-school season as well, Dulaney had no issue with getting pumped for these final few weeks of fall play. “We have to remember that this is the playoffs now - this could be our last game,” he said.
“We have a lot of seniors, a lot of grade 13’s and I think that really motivated our team.”
While Sola enjoys the benefit of having multiple options at his disposal - throw the likes of Carson Huzij and Liam Conlin into the mix with those already mentioned above - there is no doubt that all of the time he has spent in practice and games with Dulaney is more than a little helpful.
“It helps with the chemistry on the field,” said the talented pass catcher with speed to burn. “If Steven has a problem or can’t roll out properly, he lets me know to adjust so that he can get the ball to me. We really trust each other.”
Game time for the city final on Friday is 4:30 p.m. at the James Jerome Sports Complex, with that same venue playing host to the SDSSAA Jr Boys Football Final on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. (semi-finals are set for Tuesday).