WOODSTOCK -- Austin Swenson was twisting, turning, kicking and doing just about anything he could to get back in at quarterback for Wauconda on Friday night.
Swenson had played a big part in helping the underdog Bulldogs hang with unbeaten Marian Central in their Class 5A football playoff opener at George Harding Field. Then, a hit near the end of the first half led to spasms that shot up the senior's back and sidelined him for his team's first offensive series of the second half.
But there was no way Swenson was going to miss any more time even though the second-seeded Hurricanes (10-0) and explosive quarterback Chris Streveler were pulling away to a deceptive 42-10 victory. Swenson hung in there the rest of the way and completed 19 of 38 passes for 293 yards.
"It took awhile and every time I would stretch and try to get back up it stayed stiff," Swenson said of the back problem he also endured in games against North Chicago and Lakes. "It was pretty much our last game so I had to come back out and try to do something to get us back in it, but it wasn't enough."
Wauconda (5-5) coach Dave Mills couldn't say enough about the grit Swenson showed in the 15th seed's first postseason appearance since 2007. Swenson's 22-yard field started the scoring in the second quarter and his 19-yard touchdown pass to David Starkey (7 catches, 79 yards) cut the deficit to 12-10 with 1:33 left in the half.
"He's a competitor," Mills said. "He's one of those rare breeds who is still a three-sport athlete and contributes to everything he does. Wherever he lands in college, someone is going to get a nice player."
Marian, which faces the winner of tonight's game between No. 7 Woodstock North and No. 10 Sterling, came in averaging 42 points but was kept off the board in the first quarter. Junior linebackers Kacper Kulesza and Mike Prate stuffed Ephraim Lee (18 carries, 105 yards) for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the 3 and Pat Anderson forced a fumble to set up Swenson's field goal.
The Minnesota-bound Streveler, who threw for 193 yards and ran for 183, put Marian ahead to stay with a 1-yard touchdown run and a 66-yard touchdown pass to Greg Walczak. But Swenson hit 5 of 7 passes in a 67-yard drive where Starkey took a short pass and stormed into the end zone.
"We were real confident going into the second half," Swenson said. "That kept us up and kept us confident and gave us some momentum."
Which Streveler immediately gave back to Marian by racing 65 yards to the end zone on the next play and then leading a drive to set up Trent Faunce's 33-yard field goal for a 22-10 halftime lead.
"He's a playmaker," Swenson said. "He's one of the best quarterbacks around."
Marian sandwiched touchdown runs of 21 yards by Lee and 7 yards by Streveler around the series where Swenson missed. Streveler hit his last 10 passes and capped a 9-for-9 second half by hitting Tom Klinger for a 4-yard score with 5:59 left.
"We made a couple of adjustments and ran the ball a little better but it was still a sloppy game for us, especially on offense," said Marian coach Ed Brucker. "But you have to give them credit. I knew their passing game was good."
Senior Chris Kass caught 5 passes for 90 yards and Alex Schiwckrath and Austin Piekarski caught 3 passes apiece for Wauconda.
"I think this program is going to go nowhere but up from here," Swenson said.
"We expect to be in the playoffs and that's one thing this senior class has done," Mills said. "It's my first class I've had all the way through and it's nice they've set a standard. These kids are doing some tremendous things to get us back to where we think we should be."