Tonight: Alleman meets Rochester in the Class 4A state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Kickoff is 7.|
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Directions: I-74 east through Peoria and Bloomington-Normal to exit 182 (Neil Street). Go south on Neil Street 2.1 miles and turn left onto Stadium Drive. Go east on Stadium Drive to 1st Street. Turn right and go south to Memorial Stadium.
Playoff histories: Alleman is appearing in the playoffs for the 19th time and third consecutive season. The Pioneers have four runner-up finishes (1986, 1990, 2005 and 2010) and are 32-18 in the postseason. They have lost their previous four championship game appearances by 38 total points. Rochester is in the playoffs for the 12th time and is seeking its third consecutive state title.
Did you know: This is the third consecutive time the Pioneers will meet a Leonard-coached team in the finals. Ken Leonard coached Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin to a 28-21 win over Alleman in the 2005 Class 5A state finals. Five years later, Rochester earned a 24-7 win over the Pioneers with Derek Leonard, Ken's son, on the sidelines. ... Derek Leonard was the offensive coordinator on Fairbury Prairie Central's 2003 Class 4A state runner-up team. ... The Rockets' first varsity football season was 1996, and they appeared in the playoffs for the first time four years later. ... The Pioneers are 0-4 in the state championship game. Only Lexington (five) has appeared more times without winning a title.
A shot at history: Alleman could become the first Western Big 6 Conference team to win a football state title. ... The last time an Illinois Quad-Cities Metro football program won a state championship was Geneseo in 1982. ... The Pioneers have trailed for 4:34 in regulation this year.
Scouting the Pioneers: Just like two years ago, the Pioneers enter the state championship without a 1,000-yard rusher. However, they have four players — John Tracey, Tom Noe, Adam Hoogerwerf and Connor Doak — with at least 400 yards. Tracey, a senior quarterback, has a team-high 893 yards.
Besides the balanced ground attack, Alleman has used a consistent stretch to overcome a rash of injuries the last two weeks of the regular season. The Pioneers have committed five penalties with a turnover the last two weeks.
"They don't beat themselves," Rochester coach Derek Leonard said.
On top of that, the Pioneers are executing on the offensive end. They did have several big plays during the regular season, but the postseason has featured more time-consuming, grind-it-out offensive drives. Alleman hopes that trend continues as it tries to limit Rochester's possessions.
"We've got to make sure we execute on the offensive side of the ball," Alleman coach Dave DeJaegher said. "A couple years ago (in a 24-7 loss), we didn't get enough offense to keep them off the field. We're hoping to generate more offense this year."
The Pioneers allow 8.9 points and 214.5 yards per game.
Scouting the Rockets: Considered a small school, Rochester has a knack for developing exceptional quarterbacks. Senior Austin Green is the fourth consecutive Rochester quarterback to accept a Division I scholarship. Green will attend Eastern Illinois.Prior to that, the Rockets had Wil Lunt (Western Illinois), Sean Robinson (Purdue) and Wes Lunt (Oklahoma State) at quarterback.
"We've been blessed," Leonard said.
Green is 196-of-268 this season with 2,622 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Blake Pasley leads the Rockets with 73 catches for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns. Rochester has six receivers who average at least 10 yards per catch.
Carrying the load on the ground is Wisconsin recruit Garret Dooley, who has 1,371 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns.
Rochester surrenders 17.2 points per game.
Alleman coach Dave DeJaegher: "They believe. They're going to give everything they've got — that's the kind of kids they are. They're going to give the best shot they have. Hopefully, we can get it done for the school."
Rochester coach Derek Leonard: "It's a fun time. To make it here is special. We'd love a three-peat, but we've got a challenge in our way."
-- By Daniel Makarewicz, email@example.com
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