Sacred Heart-Griffin rallies to thrilling Class 4A semifinal victory at Rochester
ROCHESTER — Sacred Heart-Griffin junior receiver Madixx Morris dedicated this one to last year’s seniors.
His older brother, Kadinn, in particular.
Kadinn and the rest of the immensely talented Class of 2021 never got the chance to make a run at the state title last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic and settled with an undefeated 6-0 season instead.
“I was just thinking about my brother the whole time,” Madixx said. “I was trying to get there for him.”
No. 3 SHG rallied from a 25-7 second-quarter deficit and prevailed 49-42 over top-seeded Central State Eight Conference rival Rochester in a much-anticipated Class 4A semifinal at Rocket Booster Stadium on Friday.
The Cyclones (12-1) will play either No. 1 Joliet Catholic (12-0) or No. 2 Richmond Burton (12-0) in the 4A state championship game at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium in DeKalb at 7 p.m. Friday.
“It’s something you can’t describe,” SHG senior defensive back Salomon Dessalines said. “I feel like me personally, this was for the seniors last year who couldn’t get it.”
It is SHG’s first state appearance since going runner-up in 6A in 2016.
“We haven’t been there in a while, this one’s a big one,” SHG coach Ken Leonard said.
SHG GOES LONG
SHG junior quarterback Ty Lott turned to an unlikely source late in the game – junior receiver Kyle Long.
Long hauled in just two catches but each just as big as the other.
Long scored the go-ahead touchdown by wresting the ball away from a defender in the end zone for his first grab of the game. His 22-yard TD catch lifted the Cyclones ahead 42-39 with 9 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I was pumped,” Long said. “I was waiting for my first catch all game and I saw the ball in the air and I got excited. I just remember catching the ball and getting up. I was excited.”
Long later secured a 17-yard TD catch by deftly eluding a tackler at the line of scrimmage, extending the margin 49-39 with 5:34 left.
“When the ball was in the air, I heard our receiver say, ‘Oh shoot,’” Long said. “I immediately saw him come at me and kind of juked him out and just ran straight.
“It was great. I was waiting all game.”
Lott described Long as a great athlete.
“He’s always running his routes full speed,” Lott said. “He was just waiting to get the whole game and when he got it, he capitalized on it.”
LOTT SPREADS THE BALL
Lott went 22-for-32 for 422 yards with five touchdowns. He bounced back after throwing an interception to Ryan Robinson on his first pass attempt.
“They just told me, ‘Don’t be scared. When you get back on the field, don’t be scared to throw it again,’” Lott said.
He certainly maximized SHG’s cache of receivers.
Morris reeled in a pair of TD catches in the first half to trail 25-21 at halftime and led the Cyclones with seven receptions for 179 yards.
“We knew it would be like this,” Morris said. “We knew that if we got down, we couldn’t get down on ourselves and we would have to fight back. We fought back and came out with the win.”
SHG receiver Jake Hamilton, who started the contest with a 72-yard TD reception, had five catches for 109 yards. Junior KeShon Singleton added five catches for 28 yards and junior tailback Richard Jackson had two receptions for 50 yards.
More from the semifinal:Hank Beatty put body on the line in Rochester's biggest game since 2019
Junior running back Bill Sanders capped SHG’s 21-0 scoring run with a five-yard TD carry for its first lead of the game, 28-25, with 9:03 left in the third quarter. Then came four more lead changes.
“They knew we would go vertical with KeShon and Jake, the top two receivers and most receptions on our team, so they were like they’re going to sleep on one of us and we’ll find a way to get open,” Morris said of his breakout performance in the slot.
A pair of Rochester turnovers in the first half triggered the comeback. After Lott’s 65-yard TD bomb down the middle of the field, junior defensive standout Cory West forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
Lott capitalized with a 21-yard TD pass to Morris, and Dessalines ended Rochester’s next possession with an interception.
“They definitely matured and got a lot more physical,” Rochester senior quarterback Hank Beatty said. “They had a good game plan coming in, so props to those guys. I hope they win it.”
ROCHESTER RUNS OUT OF STEAM
Beatty had another herculean effort for the Rockets, who previously defeated SHG 45-41 in Week 3 to ultimately claim the CS8 title and finishes the season 11-2.
The University of Illinois commit ran for 189 yards and two TDs and caught a 34-yard TD pass from Keeton Reiss en route to setting a new CS8 scoring record.
Except Beatty went down with leg cramps to start off a critical drive trailing 42-39 with 8:49 left in the fourth. That was compounded by a holding penalty on the same play.
Beatty didn’t return until the next drive with a 49-39 deficit. He still helped set up Zoe Cormier’s 23-yard field goal with 1:49 left despite the injury.
“Just trying to get back out there,” Beatty said of Rochester’s final possession. “I didn’t want to let anything keep me off the field with my guys.”
Beatty said his legs simply wore out.
“He’s a great player,” Dessalines said of Beatty. “He’s a phenomenal player. I give him respect for what he does.”
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