Sandburg outlasts Joliet West
Updated: September 10, 2011 7:48PM
In a game loaded with big plays and extraordinary individual effort, the turning point of Sandburg’s 35-28 victory Saturday over host Joliet West came in the third quarter.
With Joliet West moving the ball on the ground toward a potential game-tying touchdown, Sandburg linebacker Brian Dace raced in from the outside and popped quarterback Zack DiVarco from behind.
The ball bounced loose, Sandburg lineman Mike Thornton picked it up and rambled 52 yards untouched to give the Eagles a 35-21 lead with 8:35 remaining in the third quarter.
“I saw it and I didn’t want to overrun it, so I just slowed myself down, scooped it up and ran it in,’’ said the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Thornton. “I definitely thought it would be a game changer. At halftime I was thinking that’s all I wanted to do, recover a fumble or pick something off and run it back.’’
Joliet West put the setback aside, lined up again and marched 79 yards on its next possession. The nine-play drive was capped with a 10-yard scoring run by SaVaughn Alexander (20 carries, 202 yards) to make it 35-28 in the SouthWest Suburban Blue matchup.
“He’s a great player, a great runner,’’ Thornton said of Alexander. “He didn’t let up once.’’
“Their running back is a very special kid,’’ Sandburg coach Dave Wierzal said. “They came out to bear.’’
Joliet West was on the move again in the fourth quarter, driving from its 19-yard line to Sandburg’s 4-yard line. But a Tigers’ fumble on third down was recovered in the end zone by Sandburg’s Eddie Zilinskas with 4:41 left in the game.
“We made a couple of huge mistakes,’’ Joliet West coach Jason Aubry said. “When our kids gain confidence, we can do a lot of things. They gained some confidence. Alexander is a beast--he just runs and runs.’’
Lemonte Booker put Sandburg (3-0, 1-0) on the scoreboard first with a 65-yard run on the second play of the game.
After Joliet West (0-3, 0-1) linebacker Matthew Koran returned an interception 21 yards to Sandburg’s 1-yard line, DiVarco’s plunge made it 7-6 with 2:51 left in the first quarter.
Nick Lehnerer caught an 11-yard scoring pass from Anthony Adams, but West’s Terrell Woods responded with a 27-yard reverse for a 14-14 tie early in the second quarter.
Two plays later, Adams connected with Booker on a 57-yarder behind the secondary for a 21-14 Sandburg lead. A 69-yard counter by Alexander preceded another 1-yard plunge by DiVarco and a 21-21 tie.
Booker’s 46-yard run set up Mike Rago’s 1-yard dive that put Sandburg ahead 28-21 with 4:24 left in the half.
“Consistency was an issue today,’’ Wierzal said. “That’s something we’re going to have to work on if we’re going to play up to our potential.’’
“We definitely have a lot to learn from this game,’’ Thornton said. “I know for a fact we’re better than this. As weeks go on, it’s only going to get harder and harder.’’
Sandburg has games against SouthWest Blue favorites Lincoln-Way East, Bolingbrook and Homewood-Flossmoor every other week starting Sept. 23.
“All great teams,’’ Thornton said. “We’ve got to get better every week.’’