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Less than 24 hours after a thunderstorm suspended play early in the first quarter, a storm of another kind hit Norris Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Senior quarterback Hayden Nelson completed 21 of 29 passes for 333 yards and 4 touchdowns to lead the South Elgin Storm (1-0) to a 49-14 Upstate Eight Conference crossover victory over St. Charles East (0-1) in St. Charles.
The Storm relied on a variety of big plays to pull away from the Saints -- many of which came on crucial third-down conversions.
Perhaps the turning point of the game occurred on the final play of third quarter, as the Storm faced a 3rd-and-12 situation from their own 19-yard line just a few moments after the Saints had pulled within 21-14 on quarterback Kyle Cook's 7-yard touchdown run.
Storm receiver Kyle Ware got behind the Saints' secondary and Nelson connected with him along the sideline for a 79-yard pass play.
Three plays later, Nelson tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Andrew Kamienski as South Elgin upped its lead to 27-14 with 10:53 remaining.
"We've really stressed that throughout our practice plans," Storm coach Pat Pistorio said of his team's third-down execution. "Third-down situations are something we work on on a daily basis. The kids get ramped up for it."
South Elgin converted 7-of-12 third-down plays with 4 touchdowns in addition to the 79-yard pass.
"Third downs and big plays really killed us," said Bryce Farquhar, who was making his debut as Saints head coach. "We had them pinned in on third down and they made a big play back to the other end (of the field). Those kill you.
"One of our philosophies is to limit big plays and we just didn't make that happen today."
Another big reason was the outstanding play of Storm quarterbacks Nelson and backup Jake Amrhein, who added a 19-yard touchdown run and completed a 17-yard TD toss to Nick Menken (8 receptions, 95 yards) to cap South Elgin's 28-point unanswered spree in the fourth quarter.
"Our quarterbacks are extremely talented," said Pistorio. "Hayden has done a great job taking command of the offense and has really stayed within the system. I'm extremely proud of him. Jake (Amrhein) is a very strong kid with a great arm. Hopefully we can utilize both of them moving forward."
South Elgin scored on its opening series, as Nelson hooked up with Derek Kumerow for a 38-yard touchdown -- on 3rd-and-9.
In the second quarter, Nelson fired a 19-yard TD pass to Shawn Griffin as the Storm took a 14-7 halftime advantage.
"We worked in the weight room the whole offseason," said Nelson, whose team suffered a 35-27 loss to St. Charles East in its 2013 opener. "All five of our linemen put on 30 pounds and I put on 30 pounds myself. The line pretty much did it for me. They did an incredible job blocking for me today."
Griffin (13 carries, 101 yards) added a 47-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in the second half to increase South Elgin's lead to 21-7.
Senior tailback Ramon Lopez (15 carries, 57 yards) opened the Saints' scoring with a 3-yard TD run late in the first quarter.
Defensively, Chase Lazopoulos, Nikiel Williby and Kamienski each had interceptions for the Storm while junior linebacker Blake Saltsman made the Saints' lone interception.
"We've got practice on Monday and we'll reset," said Farquhar. "The beauty about football is you reset every week. We're looking forward to Jacobs now and what we can do to get to 1-1."