By Al Zipsie

It was called the rematch.

But, it really didn't matter what happened in the first game back in week two.

The game Saturday in the 1A semi-final was the only game that mattered. A loss and the season would be over. And the winner plays for the State Championship.

And the game was a battle in front of a huge and vocal crowd. And somehow despite all the hype, the game lived up to its billing. Lena-Winslow held on beating Forreston 12-8.

The Panthers now play a tough Tuscola, both 13-0 for the 1A state title Friday morning at 10 at NIU in Dekalb. Lena-Winslow is looking for its third football state title.

Forreston finished (11-2) with both losses coming to the Panthers both from the rugged NUIC Northwest. The Cardinals were hoping to defend State championship and win its third title in four years.

The game came down to the last drive late in the game. Forreston at the two-minute mark had driven to the Panthers 27 yard line facing a 4th and 8. A Hunter Daws pass intended for a big target in 6 foot 6 Sam Barkalow was picked off by Lena-Winslow sophomore Sean Ormiston at the five-yard line.

The leaping one-handed interception sealed the win. Ormiston a linebacker had ten tackles and a pair of interceptions.

The Panthers led 12-8 at halftime with no scoring in the second half with the bruising physical teams.

Lena-Winslow had an easier time scoring in the first half. They scored on their first possession driving 70 yards in 13 plays. It was capped off by an Ormiston one-yard run. In the second quarter, Ty Chrisman connected with Gauge Schwartz for a 27-yard touchdown pass.

On the final play of the first half, Daws completed a pass to A.J Christensen who took it for a 33 yard TD. Gavin Fuchs two-point conversion run cut the lead to 12-8 at intermission.

Lena-Winslow's Rahveon Valentine had 95 yards rushing to go over 2,000 rushing yards on the season.

Five NUIC football players were named to the Illinois Coaches All-State team. They were  Valentine. Lena-Winslow senior. Running back/defensive back. A.J Christensen. Forreston senior. Running back/defensive back. Maverick McPeek. Dakota senior. Offensive and defensive lineman. Ian Kuehl. Lena-Winslow junior. Offensive and defensive lineman. Devon Murray. West Carroll senior. Linebacker.

Both teams despite so much on the line showed great sportsmanship after the game. Forreston had a tough week as junior Drew Crase was killed in an auto accident. A lot of area schools and community's supported Forreston. Lena-Winslow honored Drew by wearing blue helmets. And the field at Lena honored Crase with "Blue for Drew" at midfield.

NUIC Stateline Sports Hub. Final Rankings.

  1. Lena-Winslow. 13-0.
  2. Forreston. 11-2.
  3. Aquin. 9-3.
  4. Stockton. 8-3.
  5. Dakota. 7-3.
  6. West Carroll. 7-4.
  7. Milledgeville. 8-3.
  8. E/PC. 5-5.
  9. Orangeville. 5-5.
  10. Polo. 5-4.

The only other team from the Stateline

In Byron lost in the 3A semifinal. The Tigers finished 11-1 falling 7-0 to Elmhurst IC.

Former Dakota athletes Josh Alber and Brett Benning are both starting junior years of their college careers. Alber, the only Illinois high school wrestler who was a four-time state champion to never lose or tie a match is at   Northern Iowa. He started the season winning the Grand View Open at 147 pounds. He is going for a Division 1 National Championship. Benning, is back with the Augustana basketball team from Rock Island. They are going for the NCAA Division all National Championship after finishing last season as the runner-up. They started the season 3-0. In Saturday's 65-53 win over Alma, Benning led the way with 15 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes. Augustana now faces the University of Illinois at State Farm Arena at 6 p.m Wednesday. It counts on the records and is not an exhibition game.