You can talk about history, rivalries, conference finish, playoff seedings and playoff elimination.
When it came right down to it, though, Wheaton North's football team simply wanted to beat Wheaton Warrenville South on Friday.
The Falcons finally did it, claiming a 23-13 DuPage Valley Conference home victory to knock off WW South for the first time since 2002.
As the players celebrated and the fans stormed the field -- the release of 10 years of frustration -- the fallout began to take effect. While Wheaton North (8-1, 6-1) awaits Saturday night's announcement of its first-round Class 7A playoff opponent, a game sure to be at home, the loss denies WW South (4-5, 4-3) a playoff berth for the first time since 2002.
"We knew with South being 4-4 they were going to play their best game," said Falcons quarterback Johnny Peltz, who completed 21 of 28 passes for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns. "Nothing needed to be said about it. We had two games circled on our calendar, we had Geneva and this game. We just came out and took care of business."
Wheaton North took care of business by breaking out to a 23-0 lead by halftime. The Tigers gained some momentum by narrowing the gap to 23-13 in the third quarter on a 3-yard scoring pass from Ryan Graham to Corey Davis and Graham's 20-yard touchdown run.
The Falcons, however, thwarted the comeback when Luke Sahly's sack sparked a three-and-out early in the fourth quarter. Wheaton North proceeded to mount a 14-play drive that ate up more than seven minutes of clock.
Even though the Falcons came away with no points, they left WW South with only two minutes on the clock. A fumble ended the Tigers' final drive, and a couple of kneel-downs ended the game and the 10-year losing streak.
"They're a very fine football team, I wish (Falcons coach Joe Wardynski) luck in the playoffs," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch. "It's a different October for the Tigers this year."
Wheaton North stormed to a 9-0 first-quarter lead on a 1-yard pass from Peltz to Kaelen Bradford and a safety when a punt snap sailed into the end zone and J.D. Marconi tackled the punter. Peltz threw a pair of touchdown passes to Tom Colletti to push the halftime lead to 23-0.
Colletti had 5 catches for 36 yards, while Matt Biegalski added 7 catches for 105 yards. Graham ran for 46 yards and threw for 81, including 38 receiving yards on 5 catches by Davis.
"You need to have a breakthrough win before it can become something the kids will believe in," Wardynski said. "You talk about it and you think you can get it done. But until you actually do it, it's something that's going to be hanging over your heads."
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