Tigers Bring Super Heroes Into Playoffs

By: Orrin Schwarz / Article updated: 10/31/2014 11:56 PM – Daily Herald 

Just another Wheaton-Warrenville South playoff football miracle.

The Tigers came from behind to stun Lincoln-Way North with a 17-10 overtime victory in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs Friday in Frankfort, even after it looked three times in the final 1:30 of regulation like the game was as good as over.

“It reminds me a lot of 2011,” said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch, his team known for spectacular finishes, “where nobody counted us in and we just kept playing tough football and we figured out a way to win at the end of the game.”

With Lincoln-Way North leading 10-7 and the Tigers having used all their timeouts, the Phoenix decided against the victory formation. Instead Tigers defensive back Eric Lipinsky forced and recovered a fumble on a Phoenix running play, and the Tigers took over with 1:26 to play on their own 21-yard line. On the previous play Lipinsky had saved a touchdown by catching Phoenix running back Jaylin Branch on a 51-yard breakaway run.

“Eric Lipinsky down there, he made a huge play, saved the season,” Tigers defensive back Jake Kyllonen said.

With 18.3 seconds to go, quarterback Josh Prueter completed an 8-yard pass to Keishawn Watson at the Phoenix 15. The Tigers rushed to spike the football and stop the clock, doing so as the clock reached 0.0. The referees put 1.0 back on the clock, waving the celebrating Phoenix off the field.

“That was nerve-wracking,” Prueter said. “I saw the clock counting down, I was trying to get everybody set up. I’m just thankful we got it off.”

Ben Flores kicked a 32-yard field goal with the wind at his back as time expired to send the game to overtime.

“Oh, very clutch,” Kyllonen said of Flores. “He’s been great all season. He didn’t come out for football in the beginning, so we got him to come out and he’s been a huge part of the team, knocking down some important field goals and saving our season also.”

“Definitely a little nervous,” Flores said, “but I just tried to stick to my technique and kick it through.”

The Tigers started the overtime period with the football, and on third down they scored on a 9-yard Watson touchdown reception from Prueter, giving them their first lead of the game.

“We get the overtime, we have the momentum, we know we can win,” Prueter said. “We had 10 yards to go, I trust my O-line to get 10 yards, hard-fought and we got it. That was fun.”

Lincoln-Way North also started its possession at the 10-yard line, but on fourth down at the 4, Kyllonen knocked down a pass into the end zone, ending the game.

It was a great finish for a defense that held the Phoenix without a first down until midway through the third quarter.

“The biggest credit of the night goes to our defense and the fumble that we got,” Muhitch said.

Both offenses struggled throughout the game, especially heading into a strong wind. A light snow fell also, leaving a light blanket on the field. Lincoln-Way North had the only score of the first half, a 28-yard Niko Mavrogiannis field goal with the wind with 5.0 seconds to go in the second quarter.

The Phoenix led 10-0 until Prueter scored a 2-yard touchdown run with 10:33 left in the fourth quarter.

“We had to make a ton of adjustments, and I know they had to make a ton of adjustments based on factors of the weather,” Muhitch said, “and it’s a shame that a football game comes down to this, and this is football in Illinois in November.”

Follow Orrin on Twitter @Orrin_Schwarz

Complete Article Link: http://football.dailyherald.com/article/20141031/sports/141039484/