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Daily Herald's 2016 Season Coverage
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updated: 9/23/2016 11:26 PM

West Aurora holds off South Elgin in barnburner

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By Darryl Mellema
Daily Herald Correspondent

Five was a beautiful number for West Aurora's football team on Friday night. Five, as in the first digit of the team's score after a wild 50-40 Upstate Eight Conference River Division win over South Elgin.

Five also represents the number of victories the Blackhawks have this season, against no losses, which marks the first time since 1994 that the school has been unbeaten this late in a football season.

Then there were the high-fives, which came frequently on the home sideline, especially after each of the team's seven touchdowns, scored by four different players.

"It's been so much different than in the past," West Aurora senior Nick Catalano said. "Our team is so much of a family. Our defense was struggling, but our offense came back and no one had their heads down. It was an overall good game."

As in every game this year, West Aurora used a number of ballcarriers, led by the Cross brothers. DaVion Cross carried 16 times for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns. DaQuan Cross added 112 yards on 7 carries and scored once. Contributions from others were just as important. Catalano, for example, had a dozen carries and gained 63 yards.

"This year, we have so many different running backs, Coach (Nate) Eimer likes to spread the ball out more," Catalano said. "It's just to confuse defenses more. DaVion and DaQuan Cross, they're amazing kids. It's just great to have four or five more guys who can run the ball just as well as they can."

West Aurora (5-0, 3-0) never trailed and built a solid 22-12 halftime lead before the game turned into a track meet on FieldTurf -- there were 5 combined touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone.

"We're blessed right now," Eimer said. "Obviously everyone talks about the Cross brothers, but we have others. (JaQuan) Buchanan came back and had a big night. Nick Catalano, our fullback, has been a big-time runner. Even Cionte Carter, we don't talk about him a lot, but he had some big runs."

Buchanan had 83 yards on 8 carries while Carter added 59 yards on 8 carries.

South Elgin (2-3, 2-1) kept coming back, especially through the passing of quarterback Nate Gomez, who threw 34 times, completed his first 9 in a row and ended with 23 completions for 259 yards and 4 TDs. Gomez added 52 rushing yards.

"He did a good job," South Elgin coach Patrik Pistorio said. "With the empty sets that we run, it gives him the opportunity to run the draw. He scrambled quite a bit, but obviously with his arm strength and athleticism, he can make some big-time throws."

For a team that scored only 24 points in its first two games of the season, Friday's output was more than a pleasant surprise.

"It's been a while since we've been involved in one of these," Pistorio said. "Our kids gave us a great effort. We just came up short."

The finishing quartet of contests is challenging for the Storm. Balanced against games with West Chicago and East Aurora, South Elgin faces Batavia and Cary-Grove.

"We're looking forward to seeing what we can do against teams like Batavia and Cary-Grove," Pistorio said. "But right now, we're looking only at West Chicago."

While the Storm rallied repeatedly, the Blackhawks kept the lead at two scores or more throughout the second half, and showed the ability to close a game against a determined opponent.

"To finish the game was big," Eimer said. "I told them that in the past, a lot of times West Aurora would give up a big pass play and not come back and answer. Tonight, our offense answered on every drive and that was big."

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