Richmond-Burton knows how close it was.
The Rockets led IC Catholic, 9-0, at halftime in last year’s IHSA Class 4A state semifinals, and held a lead, 9-7, into the fourth quarter.
The eventual state champs, though, did what good teams do. IC Catholic scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to win, 28-9. The Knights went on to win their third consecutive state title and first in 4A after winning in 3A in 2016 and 2017.
“We could have beat them last year,” R-B fullback-linebacker Dalton Wood said this week. “I’m looking forward to playing IC again.”
The feeling’s mutual.
“We’ve got crazy respect for their program,” IC Catholic coach Bill Krefft said. “Again, a 4A power every year. Huge game, huge program.”
No. 2-seeded R-B (11-0) will host No. 3 IC Catholic (10-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The north half of the Class 4A bracket is a juggernaut. No. 1 Coal City (11-0) hosts No. 4 Wheaton St. Francis (10-1) in the other quarterfinal. Between them, the four teams are 42-2 this year. St. Francis handed IC Catholic its only loss. Any one of the four could wind up playing in DeKalb in a few weeks.
The Rockets just want another crack at the Knights.
“Our kids are excited about it,” R-B coach Mike Noll said. “It’s going to be new. We know IC pretty well. I’m glad we’re at home this time. Hopefully, we get the people out. That changes things a little bit. They’re a turf team and we’re a grass team.”
Last year’s R-B team exceeded all expectations in its first year under Noll, going 8-1 in the regular season before making a run to the semifinals. With a large number of players returning, R-B had high expectations coming into the year. No one has come closer than 20 points against the Rockets in 2019.
Krefft hasn’t forgotten the challenge that was last year’s semifinal game.
“That was one of the best games we played in,” Krefft said. “They had us down, I believe 9-0 at halftime, and again, their program is a great football team. I think they have that again.”
IC Catholic lost by a point to St. Francis in Week 8 and edged Bishop McNamara, 31-27, in Week 4. Bishop McNamara is playing in the quarterfinals in the south half of 4A.
The Knights still feature running back Kyle Franklin, who has run for 1,452 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Danny Cronin has thrown for 1,504 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions.
R-B remains run-heavy behind fullback Dalton Wood (1,329 yards, 29 touchdowns),but quarterback Jacob Huber has developed into a dangerous weapon. When the Rockets do throw it, it usually leads to big gains.
Huber has tossed for 799 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions (on 44-of-86 passing).
“Teams have to focus not on just stopping the fullback like last year,” Wood said. “Now they have to worry about our tailback, our wing back, our passing game and our fullback. It helps us spread them out more.”
R-B is hoping that’s enough weapons to propel it past the state champs.
Friday Night Drive pick: IC Catholic.