Defensive players often get the reputation of not having the best of hands. After all, that's why they play defense instead of offense, right?
Well, Antioch senior Anthony Cloe has a much different perspective on that theory. And after his interception and fumble return for a touchdown in the Sequoits' key regular-season finale against visiting Vernon Hills, he's got plenty of evidence that some of those defenders do have ball skills.
"We worked the whole week on pass coverage and focused on staying in coverage, and I was just in the right spot at the right time," Cloe said.
Seems like a lot has gone right for Antioch over the final month of the season. After a 1-4 start, the playoffs for coach Brian Glashagel's team virtually started Week 6. Now, it looks like they can start for real.
Thanks to a ground game that piled up 412 yards and an opportunistic defense, Antioch earned its playoff-qualifying fifth win of the season and fourth in a row by defeating Vernon Hills 46-15 Friday night.
With 44 total playoff points, Antioch should qualify for the Class 5A playoffs after missing out in 2012.
"I love this," Glashagel said afterward. "This is really why we do this -- I hope our story is not done being written."
The ground game for Antioch (5-4, 5-1) was too much for the visiting Cougars. Sophomore Griffin Hill got the party started with a quick 6-yard touchdown burst early on to give the hosts a 6-0 lead. He then closed the first half with an explosive 74-yard scoring run to put Antioch up 26-0 at the break.
"The funny thing about that play is that we were just happy to run a couple of plays and go in at halftime," Glashagel said. "Then (Griffin) broke the long run."
Hill was one of three Sequoits to rush for over 90 yards. Hill ran for 136 yards on 11 carries while junior Alan Taylor, who filled in for injured starting quarterback Zach Andre in the second half, rushed for 137 on only 10 carries and had a 54-yard scoring run.
Cloe and the defense did their best work during an explosive second-half stretch that saw the Sequoits break the game open. Cloe had an interception to set up the first Antioch score, and then his recovery of a fumbled kickoff and 30-yard return helped to break the game open.
Cloe was joined in the end zone a short time later by senior Christian Norris, who stepped in front of a Connor McNamara pass and raced 60 yards for the score.
"It was pretty crazy -- we scored in so many different ways," Cloe said. "But the most important thing is playoffs and we got the job done."
Vernon Hills (3-6, 3-3) reached the end zone on a pair of McNamara passes to Robby Nardini in the second half.
"I told the guys at halftime whatever kind of adversity we face, if we are going down we are going down fighting," said Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo. "It was a bad way for the seniors to go out, but I told them tonight you may not see it yet, but you have helped to turn this around."