'Two great schools, two great programs': SHG, Rochester revel in last Leonard Bowl

Bill Welt
State Journal-Register
Sacred Heart-Griffin's Head Coach Ken Leonard, right, gets a hug from his son Rochester's Head Coach Derek Leonard after the game in which SHG won Friday August 26, 2022. This is Ken Leonard's last season as coach.

Ken and Derek Leonard pray this is the last one.  

Ken, the longtime Sacred Heart-Griffin coach retiring at the end of this season, claimed the 15th and perhaps final Leonard Bowl with a 62-27 Central State Eight Conference victory over son Derek’s Rochester at his namesake field on Friday. 

It turned into another electrifying clash at the midway point before the Class 4A top-ranked Cyclones outscored the No. 3 Rockets 35-6 in the final 18 minutes. 

Ken, in his 39th season at SHG with five state titles, can finally put the hoopla behind him — as long as they don’t meet again in the playoffs like last year. 

All the results:Scores from around the Springfield area in Week 1

“This will get us ready (for the season) because they're a really good team,” Ken said. “Thank God we got ahead of them early, because I didn't know if we were ever going to stop them, and they were good. They were good upfront.” 

Derek, in his 18th season with eight state titles, could gladly unwind.

“It's been a great run — 15 games, 13 years," Derek said. "But it wears on you a little bit, and I think it's time for us to be on the same side again, and this competition is never going to leave. It's always going to be there and it's always going to be important to us. But I'm glad and I know he is, too.  

“It's two great schools, two great programs. Talk about a rivalry. There's been no better in the state of Illinois, maybe in the Midwest. This game has always meant something.” 

Sacred Heart-Griffin's Colin Johannes runs the ball against Rochester High School during the game at SHG Friday August 26, 2022.

Lott spreads the ball around

SHG senior quarterback Ty Lott opened with a 64-yard TD pass to senior receiver Andrew McDowell and the Cyclones (1-0 overall, CS8) rolled ahead 20-0 with 10 minutes, 30 seconds left in the second quarter. 

“I saw the way they were playing the coverage,” Lott said of the pass to McDowell. “I was taking a step back, I saw the safety move over (and) I just threw it up. I knew he could make the play, so I just led to where he could get it.” 

Lott completed 18 of 22 passing attempts for 314 yards and four TDs, dispersing to eight different wideouts. Madixx Morris led the receiving corps with six catches for 82 yards while Air Force Academy commit KeShon Singleton had five catches for 61 yards and three TDs.  

“It's really good because when we spread the ball around, it scrambles the whole defense and if you call it quick, you'll probably have someone open,” Lott said. 

Singleton only had one catch in the first half. 

“He didn't get any looks at the beginning,” Lott said. “He was cool. He just kept playing his game. He knew when he'd get open, I'd get it to him.” 

Rochester High School's Keeton Reiss gets off a pass while in the grip of Sacred Heart-Griffin's Richard Jackson during the game at SHG Friday August 26, 2022. The pass was complete but short of the distance needed for a first down.

Glimmer of hope

Rochester senior quarterback Keeton Reiss aired out a 33-yard TD pass to junior receiver Canon Bruce to trail 20-7 in the second quarter. 

SHG senior Colin Johannes immediately countered with a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, racing from the left hash mark then down the right sideline. 

“I wasn't even thinking,” Johannes said. “I was getting hit by so many people, high-fiving so many people. It was great.” 

Reiss, undeterred, orchestrated a 13-play drive and dove into the end zone with 6.2 seconds left in the first half for a 27-14 deficit. He pared that down to one possession with a 4-yard TD run after the break. He went 13-for-19 for 181 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 109 yards and three TDs. Bruce finished with four catches for 97 yards and one score. 

Sacred Heart-Griffin's KeShon Singleton, right, escapes from Rochester's Amar'e Franklin as Singleton runs the ball during the game at SHG Friday August 26, 2022.

“He brings a whole different element,” Derek said of Reiss’ debut. “He's a load, but he can throw the football. He gives us so many things. He's going to have a great season.” 

Rochester’s chances evaporated in minutes following a punt and lost fumble on a kickoff return to end the third quarter. Johannes and Jake Hamilton also each nabbed an interception for SHG.

“They played like seniors should play,” Derek said of SHG. “They didn't beat themselves, they didn't turn the ball over. I thought we physically played with them but you cannot beat yourself — special teams, turnovers, all of those little things. They didn't make those mistakes.  

“You can't come in and play them and even stay in the game if you do that against them. It was an old team versus a young team and an experienced team versus an inexperienced team, but we've got a lot I think we can play with. I'm excited. I think we're going to be fine.” 

Contact Bill Welt: (217) 788-1545,, 

Rochester High School's Keeton Reiss runs the ball as Sacred Heart-Griffin's Richard Jackson tries to bring him down during the game at SHG Friday August 26, 2022.