CHAMPAIGN -- With hopes of preventing history, the Alleman football team unfortunately made some.|
Unable to make any key defensive stops when it mattered most, the Pioneers suffered a 43-18 loss to Rochester in the Class 4A state championship game Friday at Memorial Stadium. The Rockets become the 13th program to secure three consecutive state titles with the win, denying Alleman its first-ever championship.
On the other end, Alleman joins Lexington as the only two programs in state history with no wins in five state championship game appearances.
"We couldn't get it done. This feels like crap," Alleman senior running back Adam Hoogerwerf said. "You feel like you let a lot of people down. Fifth time here, and you can't get it done. You would say to go back and work harder, but you can't."
Alleman (12-2) simply had to accept reality.
"They were better than us tonight," Alleman coach Dave DeJaegher said.
In winning their third consecutive state championship, the Rockets (13-1) carved through the Alleman defense with ease. The Pioneers allowed 28 first-half points -- the most they had given up in a game this season -- as Rochester threw with precision and ran with aggression.
Rochester scored six touchdowns, the most Alleman had allowed since a 42-6 loss to Rock Island on Oct. 3, 2008. That was a span of 50 games.
"We spread it out so much, it's hard to take away both things," Rochester coach Derek Leonard said. " ... This year, we take what teams give us. It was evident tonight."
Preparing to stop the Rockets' passing attack, Alleman allowed 174 rushing yards in the first half. Rochester had three touchdown rushes, with two covering at least 17 yards.
Through the first quarter, the Pioneers matched Rochester score-for-score as Sean Wetherell and Hoogerwerf had 48- and 42-yard touchdown runs, respectively, to cut the deficit to 14-12.A pair of touchdown scampers by Rockets quarterback Austin Green made it 28-12 midway through the second quarter.
Once again, the Pioneers countered with a 13-play, 74-yard scoring drive that featured two fourth-down conversions. John Tracey capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, slicing the deficit to 28-18 with 90 seconds left in the half.
Eight plays and 64 seconds later, Rochester went ahead 35-18 when Blake Pasley caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Green.
"That was big," DeJaegher said. "We never did get a stop all night."
Twice in the third quarter, Alleman drove inside Rochester territory before an interception and turnover on downs negated the series.
"Our offense needed to step up tonight," Hoogerwerf said. "We needed to score every time we touched the ball."
The Pioneers simply could not finish scoring chances when given the opportunity. Then again, Alleman did allow a season-worst 419 yards on defense and did not force a turnover.
"Our defense has won us some games this year and we needed to come up big," Tracey said. "But they converted on offense."
Five of Rochester's six first-half drives ended in touchdowns.
"But I wouldn't trade this team for anything," Tracey said. "This is a great group of guys."
One loss will not overshadow 14 games of memories. History can take a back seat to pride.
"The kids battled hard all year," DeJaegher said. "It wasn't meant to be. That doesn't take anything away from what these kids accomplished."
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