Junior running back Jake Arthurs and the Wheaton-Warrenville South football team’s offense was elated about his 4-yard touchdown run on its first possession Friday at Wheaton North. Story By Bill Stone – Daily Herald Correspondent 9/29/2018 12:04 AM
The even greater joy after the game came mainly from the defense.
“Our offense we came out firing. We looked really good and Wheaton North just responded throughout the game,” Arthurs said. “They’re a good team, but our defense held us in the game.”
That lone touchdown of the game was enough to give the Tigers a victory of epic proportions, 10-3 over their cross-town rivals on the Falcons’ home field and their homecoming.
WW South (5-1, 3-1 DuKane Conference) beat Wheaton North (3-3, 2-2) for the first time since 2015 and now has enough victories to be playoff eligible for the first time since 2014.
“Beating Wheaton North, from just the Wheaton cross-town aspect of it, it means everything. Coaches are talking about it. The neighborhood kids are talking about the Wheaton North dominance, so hopefully this will change a couple of people’s views,” Arthurs said.
“Playoffs aspect, it’s awesome. It’s just one step closer. We’ve got to keep finishing, put our nose to the grind. Three games left, and hopefully get three more Ws.”
The Tigers took a 10-0 lead with 9:39 left on Jack Olsen’s 23-yard field goal, his 13th this season, but the Falcons responded with Nathan Love’s 25-yard field goal.
The Falcons regained possession at their 30 with 2:53 left. After winning last week on the game’s final play and two weeks ago in overtime, this final drive was hampered by three penalties, especially a holding penalty that cost 20 yards, including the spot of the infraction. Quarterback Love’s fourth-and-25 heave was batted down by the Tigers around their 40 with 1:10 remaining.
“It’s always a good win when you win the cross-town,” WW South coach Ron Muhitch said.
“The fun part of it now is it’s Game 6. The last three years it’s been Game 1 and it’s been (heck) because whoever loses starts off with a bitter taste. The last two years we’ve been on the short end and I thought it defined our (2-7) season last year. (Week 6), that’s about when it should be.”
Both stingy defenses held their own. The Falcons outgained the Tigers 182-163 behind their scoring drive ignited by Antowon Tolbert’s 36-yard run.
But the Tigers’ defense fought off first-and-goal from the 5 after one of the team’s nine penalties. Love’s field goal came after Nazri Khayal sacked Love on third down from the 4.
In the second quarter Wheaton North reached the 26 before an incomplete fourth-down pass, and the 37 before a 5-yard tackle for loss by Isiah Brown-Dietzman.
Michael Rogers helped the Tigers overcome the loss of injured starter linebacker Jake Stransky. In the second quarter, cornerback Zach Powell caused and recovered a fumble by the receiver he was covering for the defense’s 19th turnover this season.
“A lot of it is practice. We work on stripping the ball a lot,” Powell said.
“They like to run the ball a lot so we just really loaded up the box and let on D-linemen and linebackers take care of that. Once they couldn’t get that going, they tried to throw it and we were able to stop that too.”
Olsen’s field goal came after Wheaton North’s Trevor Gabrielle sacked WW South quarterback Noah Henkel on third-and-goal from the 2. The drive, however, continued due to a roughing-the-kicker penalty for a first down at the Tigers’ 35.
“I did not expect that to be the only (touchdown) of the game,” said Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski.
“I thought we were going to have more success than we did. That was a combination of their good play and our numerous mistakes. We played very undisciplined, a lot of fundamental mistakes, things that a team playing their sixth game of the year should not do. That’s on us as a staff.”
Arthur’s seventh touchdown this season completed an 8-play, 70-yard drive. The play of the drive and perhaps the game was Tiwan Smith’s leaping catch on fourth-and-23 while staying inbounds to extend the drive to the Falcons’ 41.
Smith leads the Tigers with 17 receptions this season.
“It probably was one of the tougher ones, but during practice I work on those type of catches all week,” Smith said. “Tough catches are the best catches to me.”