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Whether it was like getting punched in the face or rope-a-doped, Wheaton Academy took Walther Christian's best and gave back more.
Down 13-0 within two minutes after some kick-return trickery and a long touchdown pass, Wheaton Academy responded with a 47-25 homecoming victory over the Suburban Christian Gold foe at Wheaton College's McCully Stadium on Saturday.
"I told them this at the end of the game, that was one of the things I was most proud of with this group, is that today they did take Walther's best shot, they stood up to it, and they responded. And so I was encouraged by that. I didn't see that out of this group yet," Warriors coach Brad Thornton said.
Part of that deal was Wheaton Academy (2-3, 1-2) had faced Missouri's No. 6 team in its class in Westminster, and defending Illinois champions Montini and Aurora Christian.
None of them needed a doozy like Walther Christian (1-4, 1-2) executed on the opening kickoff. The Broncos' David Walton received Sam Cote's boot on the left hash mark and drilled a perfect lateral — Walton is Walther's quarterback — to Brett Willis on the right hash, and Willis went 80 yards untouched.
"We put that in on Monday because they normally kick everything down to the right hash mark, so we thought that would be there," said Walther coach Bruce Tuomi. "And they did, it worked perfect. Sometimes you plan, they don't, but that one did."
Wheaton Academy went three-and-out, and back on offense Walton faked a handoff and lofted a 53-yard touchdown pass to wide-open Kurtis Duff, a Broncos senior leader who caught 3 passes for 104 yards before getting poked in the eye just before halftime, not to return.
Walther's lack of depth cannot withstand such a loss. After the teams traded touchdowns for a 19-14 Walther lead after a quarter, Wheaton Academy scored the next 20 points.
"We just ran out of gas," Tuomi said.
"It was definitely a gut-check, but we've been talking all week about adversity. It was a great teaching moment and we were able to respond," said Warriors quarterback David Thrasher, speaking with the maturity of a college sophomore, not a high school sophomore.
The live-armed right-hander completed 8 of 12 passes with 3 touchdowns — a 44-yarder to Marino Costello, a 4-yarder to Luke Doncel and a perfect 31-yard, over-the-shoulder strike to Nathan Lopez. Lopez also ran for 84 yards and his 37-yard interception return helped set up Thrasher's 1-yard sneak for the final score.
But if it's gut-check time, it's John Gemmel time for Wheaton Academy. The 5-foot-7, 190-pound granite block bashed in 3- and 5-yard touchdown runs for a 21-19 halftime lead and another 5-yarder out of halftime. Two blasts came in a new Power-I formation with offensive guard Theo Selvaggio at fullback.
"During that Power-I it was like a buffet, I could choose which hole," said Gemmel, who also blocked an extra point and had a sack at linebacker.
For Selvaggio it was like a dream come true.
"I've been wanting to try to play fullback for a while," he said, "so I just keep bugging my coaches to get in there. Finally this week we went over it and we put it in for situations like short-and-goal. Just give me a full head of steam and try to hit the hole. I loved it."