CHAMPAIGN—The Wheaton Warrenville South Tigers fell short of winning their third straight title when they lost 21-14 to Rockford Boylan Saturday in the 7A state finals.
The Tigers’ (10-3) nine-game winning streak was snapped at the hands of the Titans (14-0), who won the 6A state title in 2010 and their last 28.
“Any team that goes undefeated at any level, they are doing some things right,” Wheaton South coach Ron Muhitch said. “They have a 28-game winning streak for a reason. They are absolutely great. When you play a great team, you have to be perfect in what you do. The Tigers didn’t play real well today at certain times. We did have mistakes that kept us from being up to par with a team like Rockford.”
The game began with Rockford senior quarterback Lamont Toney faked an option and ran a 72-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper to propel his team ahead 7-0.
“Our defense did a great job all week long in practice and our scouting team gave us good information,” said Toney, who was 6-of-9 for 133 yards and a touchdown. “I was focusing on my reads and I saw their defensive end squeezing out on (senior running back) Tyreis Thomas and I just pulled it and ran.”
Wheaton South sophomore quarterback Jordan Davis—playing in his first varsity start ever for injured quarterbacks Thaddeus Armstrong and Ryan Graham—tried throwing the next drive, but he was picked off by Rockford senior defensive end Luke Riggs.
The Titans’ offense consistently drove deep into Wheaton South’s territory, but the Tigers held strong and held Rockford to a pair of field goals to trail 13-0 at the half.
Wheaton South senior running back Dan Vitale was held to 21 yards rushing on 10 carries in the first half, as the Tigers were out gained 181-88.
In the third quarter Wheaton South began by holding the Titans’ offense to two three and outs. Vitale then brought the Tigers back in the game with two 20-plus yard runs, the last being a 23-yard touchdown run right to make it 13-7 Rockford.
“We just went back to old-school football,” said Vitale, who had 121 rushing yards. “We went two back and tried to run the ball how we have the rest of the playoffs. We were starting to get a little momentum, which was huge for us. We were able to get a quick score and get back in the game.”
Rockford Boylan senior running back Tyreis Thomas had a 30-yard run the next drive, but Thomas fumbled the ball as Wheaton South senior defensive end Greg Hohenstein recovered the ball at Rockford’s 49-yardline.
Davis had a 12-yard run to the Titans’ 1-yardline, yet the play was brought back because of a holding call.
“That play, Vitale had to come out of the game because of a broken chinstrap,” Muhitch said. “That hold cost us a touchdown. That will be the one play that will stick with me during the summer.”
The next play, Davis then had senior wide receiver Daniel Choi open on the right flank. Rockford senior defensive back jumped the route and picked Davis off to save a touchdown.
Two plays later, Toney made Wheaton South pay for blitzing as he hit senior wide receiver Jaxson Meister in stride for a 79-yard touchdown for a 21-7 Titans’ fourth-quarter lead.
On 2nd-and-4, Toney had a keeper in a dog pile, but senior linebacker Adam Dansdill recovered a fumble and returned it 17-yards to make it 21-14 Rockford with 5:49 remaining.
Rockford then drove deep in Wheaton South territory with Toney passing to sophomore wide receiver Nick Pumilia on third down. Dansdill broke up the pass to save a touchdown.
The Titans settled for a 26-yard field goal attempt, but Dansdill broke through and blocked the kick with 1:40 left.
“I was playing for my teammates,” Dansdill said of his fourth-quarter play. “Everything we do out there is for one another. That’s how we played all season. “We’ve come a long way. We’ve always known we could do it, but we had a lot of doubters on the way. Deep done on the inside, we knew we could do it and worked to get better each and every week.”
The Tigers’ final drive ended in three incomplete passes and a sack.
Muhitch said Davis played great for his first varsity start.
“It was a big challenge,” said Davis, who was 4-of-15 for 58 yards and two picks. “We just worked hard every practice. We had great scouting by our coaches and gave me great scouting tips and what reads to look for. Rockford has a great defense. They were tough to play against. I had a couple careless mistakes that cost us.”