JOLIET — Mascoutah did the unthinkable and Devin Wills led the way Saturday.
In a tie game and with the season on the line, the Indians senior running back scored on a 1-yard run with 16.3 seconds left to lift his team past Joliet Catholic — the defending state champion — and into a Class 5A state semifinal with a 21-14 victory.
The short score capped off an 80-yard game-winning drive that spanned 8 minutes and 18 seconds.
“I’m speechless right now,” Wills said while receiving congratulatory pats on the back from numerous teammates and fans. “It’s a blessing to see another week and make it to the semifinals. That’s something we haven’t done in a long time. I’m just blessed to be doing it with the people that I love so much.”
Mascoutah (9-3) will host Rochester (11-1) in a Class 5A state semifinal at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Wills' herculean effort snapped a six-game winning streak for Joliet Catholic (8-4), which has won 14 state titles.
The senior finished with 19 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and provided the longest play of the game. After an interception by senior defensive back Terrance Buckingham at the 8:54 mark of the third quarter, Wills scored on the very next play.
As he took a handoff up the middle, the senior bounced to the outside, broke several tackles and raced down the visiting sideline for an 80-yard score and a 14-7 Mascoutah lead.
“We really tried to do some things this year to make sure he was rolling at the end of the year,” Indians coach Josh Lee said. “Last year, weight and workout-wise, we felt he was a bit slower at the end of the year. So our training focused on being the fastest team around at the end of the season, and you saw it right there. He peeled out of there.”
The Hilltoppers responded with a touchdown 100 seconds later as Jordan Anderson burst free for a 38-yard score to tie it.
The Indians defense held Joliet Catholic scoreless for the remainder of the second half until Wills' heroics.
While Wills was the star of the night, he wasn’t the only running back that made his presence felt. On the second play from scrimmage, Joliet Catholic senior running back Kenyetta Williams broke free and raced all the way to the end zone for a 66-yard score.
But Mascoutah didn’t allow the home crowd to celebrate for long.
After stopping the Hilltoppers on their second drive, the Indians blocked the ensuing punt, and senior lineman Matt Wilson recovered it. One play later, senior quarterback Devon Ross threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Aiden Jones to tie it.
“I had absolute faith in (Jones) to get in the end zone,” Ross said. “But I also had absolute faith in my (offensive) line to block them into the end zone.”
Four years ago, in Lee’s first season with the program, the Indians went 1-8. Prior to that, they missed the playoffs eight years in a row before qualifying last season. Now, Mascoutah is one win away from advancing to its first state final since 1979.
“Coach Lee came in here four years ago, and we were coming off an 0-9 season, and we just bought in and believed,” Ross said. “When we came in for our end of the year meeting last year, the last slide (of the presentation) was of a DeKalb logo because we believe that we will get there.
“This win was four years in the making.”