The nearly 10 weeks since Pat Pistorio was hired as the second head football coach in South Elgin's brief history have been filled with long days for his players, his staff and the coach himself.
All of which made Saturday's 48-20 victory over visiting East Aurora a rewarding experience for everyone clad in silver and red, particularly after 3 losses to open the season.
"They really needed that," Pistorio said of his players and coaches, "It was something that was well deserved. There's been lots of hard work, lots of 6 a.m. practices. We really push these kids whether it's study table or lifting after practice. We're here until 7:30, 8 o'clock every night with these kids. They're buying in. I'm very happy to see some success finally."
The game wasn't close. South Elgin (1-3, 1-1 Upstate Eight Valley) outscored East Aurora (0-4, 0-2) in the first half 48-0. After the teams exchanged fumbles the Storm scored 6 offensive touchdowns in their next 7 possessions before halftime and senior Dalton Garland blocked a punt, which senior Nate Marotta picked up and returned 18 yards for another score.
The Tomcats, limited to 22 active players to start the game, punted 8 times in the first half, the last 2 of which were blocked. Meanwhile, South Elgin gained 390 first-half yards.
"We've been decimated by injuries, we've been decimated by ineligible players," East Aurora coach Kurt Becker said. "We had 22 kids here and the first two plays two kids got hurt. It was tough. I told them you can't quit on yourselves. You just have to keep pounding it out and see what happens."
South Elgin did much of its damage on the ground, thanks to big holes opened by offensive linemen Kevin Curameng (6-3, 270), Miguel Riesco (6-0, 250), Nick Culver (6-0, 226), Braden Krause (6-3, 225) and Luis Zavala (5-10, 215). Sophomore Shawn Griffin rushed for a game-high 151 yards, highlighted by gains of 52, 31 and 42 yards, and junior Kyle Ware finished with 9 carries for 104 yards, including touchdown runs of 2, 1, and 20 yards.
"We've been working hard the past few weeks. It's about time to get a win," Ware said. "Hopefully, we can get a few more wins. We've still got work to do."
Another beneficiary of solid blocking was Storm wide receiver Nick Menken. With leading receiver Tyler Christensen sidelined due to injury, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior made receptions of 10, 30 and 18 yards, each good for a touchdown. Senior quarterback Rob Cuda completed his first 6 passes and finished 8 of 13 for 133 yards.
"Our O-linemen did a great job and Rob was very good," said Menken, who turns 17 on Tuesday. "We'll look to run the table. Hopefully, we can run the table the rest of the season and go to the playoffs."
The South Elgin defense held the Tomcats to 173 total yards, the majority of which were gained after halftime as the Storm substituted liberally in light of a running clock. Junior Nathan Booker led East Aurora with 107 yards on 20 carries, including a 53-yard scoring run.