Aiming to hit the high notes next week in an all-important game against Batavia, the South Elgin football team spent Saturday afternoon fine tuning the instrument in a 49-12 homecoming win over West Chicago.
South Elgin (3-3, 2-2) rotated two quarterbacks through 5 games: juniors Nate Gomez and Nate Smith.
Things changed this week in practice when coach Pat Pistorio gave Gomez most of the reps, in part, he said, because the versatile athlete was deemed replaceable as a safety on defense due to the development of junior Jake Donat and senior Kreon Roberts, Jr.
Saturday's offensive result was the bump the Storm hope to see more of moving forward. Gomez completed his first 12 passes and 13 of 14 overall for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he rushed for another to stake South Elgin to a 35-6 halftime lead.
"That obviously will help our timing a ton," Pistorio said of settling on a quarterback. "And our receivers are doing a great job. Coach (Bob) Slania has really worked with them as far as their precision and their route running. (The field) was a little sloppy, but to be able to throw the ball the way we did was good. It was efficient."
The fine tuning was necessary ahead of 2 crucial games that will decide South Elgin's playoff fate. The Storm will be heavy favorites to beat East Aurora in Week 9. Thus, to reach 5 wins and playoff eligibility they must at least split their next 2 games against state-ranked opponents -- at home next Saturday against Batavia, ranked sixth in Class 6A, or the following Saturday at Cary-Grove, the No. 3 team in 6A.
South Elgin scored on all 5 first-half possessions against a West Chicago team that entered the game undermanned but not because of injuries.
"There are a lot of kids in school who decided they didn't want to play football because the work was too hard for them and the expectations weren't anything they wanted to be a part of," West Chicago coach Ted Monken said. "But these kids out here are amazing. They come out every day, they bust their butt and they do everything we ask. I can't ask for a better group of kids. We're not always matched up as well as we'd like, but our guys bust their tail every day and I wouldn't trade them for the world."
South Elgin scored first on a 2-yard Gomez run, but the Wildcats answered on their next possession with a 9-play, 71-yard drive to draw within 7-6 with 2:32 left in the first quarter.
"We came out flat on that drive where they scored," South Elgin senior cornerback Nico Woods said. "After that we just hyped up the intensity."
The Storm subsequently scored 28 straight points, beginning with a screen pass to wide receiver Desmond Lockett that he turned into a 70-yard touchdown pass with some help.
"I just lined up behind my blocker, Kyle Pollert," said Lockett, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. "We've been working on that play all week and Kyle Pollert is a great blocker. That's my teammate. Nate looked at me and knew no one was open and Kyle only had one person over him. He threw it to me and I got to the sideline as fast as I can."
South Elgin amassed 558 total yards while limiting West Chicago (1-5, 1-2) to 186 total yards.
"We really came out focused," Pistorio said. "We had a great week of preparation and we were really physical up front. We were able to run the ball and get into some two-back sets and that was fun to watch."