As soon as Crete-Monee senior Lynel Billups-Williams caught the punt, a coach on the Kankakee sideline said “that’s a touchdown.”
A few seconds later, after a burst down the sideline and then across the field and into the endzone, Billups-Williams had gone 60 yards to put the Warriors ahead for good.
“I felt it too,” Billups-Williams said. “Everyone was screaming ‘poison’ at me and wanted me to get away from the ball but I knew I had it. There was so much space and opportunity.”
The No. 14 Warriors needed several of those big plays to beat No. 19 Kankakee 25-22.
Billups-Williams was all over the field. He caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from junior Cory Stennis early in the third quarter. It was a dynamic run after the catch, full of broken tackles and quick dodges. He also had a crucial sack in the fourth quarter.
“We lost to them last year and that’s been on all of our minds for a long time,” Billups-Williams said. “We had the fight to win this game and everyone contributed.”
Stennis ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run with 9:24 left to put Crete-Monee ahead 25-14. That proved crucial when Kankakee drove down and scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Larenz Walters to Karson King with 10 seconds to play.
Crete-Monee recovered the onside kick to seal the win.
“The collective effort by our defense was outstanding, “Crete-Monee coach John Konecki said. “And the kids were resilient for 48 minutes. That’s been one of the strong points of this team all year long. They never quit.”
Stennis was 9-for-14 passing for 127 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He had 14 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
Stennis transferred from Rich and had emergence has allowed do-it-all star Joshua Franklin the luxury of doing a little less this season. Franklin had four catches for 39 yards and was a major factor in the defensive backfield as well.
“We have so many more threats this season,” Franklin said. “That’s going to be a huge factor for us in the playoffs.”
Tyrell Hester had 14 carries for 81 yards for the Warriors (7-2, 6-0 Southland), who clinched the conference title with the win. Crete-Monee is a contender for the Class 6A state title. The Warriors losses were to Lincoln-Way East and Merrillville Andrean, Ind.
“We’ve done a nice job this season of finding different ways to get our very talented skill guys out on the field and involved,” Konecki said. “The second season is coming. We’ve been tested during the season and now we just want to stay healthy and make sure the kids are on point.”
Kankakee (7-2, 5-1), which lost to Fenwick in the Class 5A state title game, has had an odd season. The Kays lost to Nazareth 2-0 in Week 1 and then weren’t challenged again until Week 9.
There is a ton of talent on the roster, including highly-regarded senior Jyaire Hill, one of the state’s top recruits, and running back Tony Phillips. Hill caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Larenz Tate in the second quarter.
Phillips had five carries for 64 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“Penalties killed us,” Kankakee coach Derek Hart said. “There is a lot of stuff we need to fix still. But that’s probably one of the best teams we will see. I love where we are at but we have a lot of work to do to get ready for next week.