Big plays lead to big moments, and they certainly went hand in hand for Leyden's football team Friday night.
Three enormous plays helped the Eagles clinch the outright West Suburban Gold championship with a 21-9 victory over Willowbrook in Villa Park.
Leyden's first Gold title since 2012 denied Willowbrook (6-3, 4-2) its first conference title since 1982 and first ever Gold title. Both teams will be in the playoffs and await Saturday night's IHSA pairings announcement.
"It's a big accomplishment," said Leyden coach Tom Cerasani. "We're very proud of the kids. They deserve it. I'm happy for the staff and the kids and everyone who's a part of it."
After holding Willowbrook to a missed field goal on the game's opening possession -- a 13-play, 57-yard drive -- Leyden (7-2, 6-0) scored two plays later on Jalen Moore's 61-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat.
Just before halftime, a sack and fumble led to Torrance Roach scooping up the ball and rumbling 30 yards for a touchdown and 14-0 Eagles lead. Midway through the fourth quarter, after Mike Dembowski kicked a 25-yard field goal for the Warriors, Leyden quarterback Michael Wilms threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Fredrickson.
"Honestly, we never give up," Roach said. "This is what we're built for, to just keep going and keep going. We adapted to what they were doing and figured out how to stop it."
Willowbrook dominated with a 391-185 total yardage advantage as 115 of Leyden's yards came on two plays. Leyden, however, notched 6 quarterback sacks and held the Warriors scoreless five times inside the Eagles 25-yard line.
Jack Jessen had 30 carries for 191 yards and Willowbrook's lone touchdown, a 4-yarder in the game's final minute. Warriors quarterback M.J. Ranieri threw for 177 yards.
"We didn't execute and didn't finish drives," said Warriors coach Nick Hildreth. "It stings, but we still have an opportunity to go look at film, get better and get to play next week. That's what our focus needs to be."
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