The South Elgin Storm finished the season strong, scoring 35 first-half points to defeat host East Aurora 49-6 Friday night. The Upstate Eight Valley win was rather bittersweet for a team that had higher goals entering the season.
Head coach Patrik Pistorio indicated that just a few games this year ended up being the difference in possibly making the playoffs.
"Unfortunately, there were a couple of close games that we didn't finish," Pistorio said. "This is a really dedicated group of seniors. We had hoped we would get them into the playoffs, but we came up a little bit short, but their effort tonight was outstanding."
Storm quarterback junior Nate Gomez ran for 4 touchdowns on the night, and said afterward that this game was for the seniors.
"It was our last game of the season, so we wanted to go out with a bang and send the seniors off on a good note," Gomez said. "The line did a great job blocking tonight. The defense played well tonight and you have to give credit to our special teams as well."
After East Aurora turned the ball over on downs after driving to the Storm's 32-yard line, the Storm wasted little time scoring on their first possession on a 1-yard run by Gomez.
South Elgin (4-5, 4-1) scored on its second possession as well to make the score 14-0 on Markee Prude's 3-yard run.
East Aurora (1-8, 1-5) used a 31-yard pass from quarterback Andre Pearson to Ziare Williams to advance down to the Storm's 17-yard line, but South Elgin's defense tightened to force the Tomcasts into attempting a 34-yard field goal. The Storm used pressure up the middle to block the field goal, and Nicholas Davalos returned to the Tomcats' 30-yard line. The Storm scored on the next play on a flea flicker started when Gomez tossed to sophomore Azxavier Salinas who then hit a wide open Dasmond Lockett for the touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
The Storm made it 28-0 with just over two minutes left in the first half when Gomez darted up the middle from 5 yards out, and then made it 35-0 less than a minute later after East Aurora fumbled the kickoff giving the Storm the ball back at the Tomcats' 37-yard line. Two runs by Prude brought the Storm to the 10-yard line where Gomez took it in on the next play.
South Elgin started the second half much like it ended the first with East Aurora botching the opening kickoff sending the ball only two or three yards. Jaleel Prude scooped up the ball and returned it to the Tomcat 21-yard line. But the Tomcats' defense held and forced the Storm to turn the ball over on downs on the 4-yard line.
The positive momentum for the Tomcats was short lived; however, when a fumble gave the Storm the ball back seven plays later. The Storm took over from the Tomcats' 25-yard line and scored two plays later on Gomez's fourth touchdown of the night to improve their lead to 42-0.
Backup quarterback Nathan Smith scored the Storm's final touchdown from 1 yard out with just over three minutes to play.
The Tomcats' perseverance was finally rewarded with less than a minute to play. Pearson hit Nasir Phillips for a 49-yard bomb down to the 1 yard line and Phillips took it in for their lone score on the next play.
Pistorio indicated that the fast start may have been a result of reducing the playbook some to allow the team to play faster.
"We did our best to simplify and scale down the game plan to allow them to think fast and execute," Pistorio said. "Sometimes at this point in the year, your playlist tends to get a bit too long, so we just tried to scale it back and get back to the basics and allow them to play fast and react and I think that helped a lot. We're proud of our achievements in the conference (Upstate Eight Valley) over the past couple of years. The hard work they put in has paid off. Hopefully, we can build off this and it will allow us to have more success next year."