NORMAL -- Benet senior linebacker Dan Veselik sheepishly recalled intercepting a pass or two as a junior varsity player a couple of years ago.
He will proudly remember his first as a varsity starter. So will the rest of his Redwings teammates.
Veselik's pick came in the third quarter Saturday against the highest-scoring team in the Class 7A playoffs and sparked Benet to touchdowns on the next two possessions for a 38-14 road victory over sixth-seeded Normal Community.
"The quarterback stayed in the pocket and pointed downfield," Veselik said. "I just wanted to stay in sync with it, and he threw it right to me. It really got us fired up on the sideline and swung the momentum in our favor."
The Redwings converted on fourth-and-15 on their next possession before senior quarterback Jack Sznajder hit fullback Alec McEachern with a 5-yard touchdown pass for a 24-14 lead with 2:55 left in the third.
After Benet's defense knocked Normal quarterback Grant Price out of the game with a head injury, running back Marty Dosen scored from 14 yards out less than two minutes later to make it 31-14.
The victory sends the 19th-seeded Redwings (9-2) to the quarterfinals where they'll face No. 3 seed Rolling Meadows next weekend. Normal's season ends at 9-2.
"For us to pull this off is really exciting," Benet coach Pat New said. "It's a great win for us."
After the two teams traded a pair of first-quarter touchdowns, the Redwings allowed just 78 yards of second-half offense and shut out the Ironmen over the final three quarters, the only team this season to do so.
"Our defense has been stepping up all year for us and against some pretty great offenses, so we felt like we were battle-tested," New said.
Dosen finished with 151 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 carries, while six receivers caught passes.
"We have so many playmakers this year," Dosen said. "Jack can spread the ball to just about anyone. The offensive line did a great job of opening up holes, and I was able to run through some arm tackles."
Sznajder misfired on five consecutive pass attempts on two occasions. But he connected on his last five of the game, two of which were 5-yard touchdown passes to McEachern in the second half.
For the second straight game Normal was paralyzed by penalties, committing eight in the first half for 95 yards. Four of those were personal fouls that extended Benet drives.
"Every time we'd make a play, we'd make a penalty," Normal coach Wes Temples said. "In the playoffs, especially the 7A playoffs, you can't do that. But congrats to (the Redwings). They did a lot of good things today and were the better team by a bigger margin than we would have liked."
Junior receiver Nicholas Keyes led Benet with 7 receptions for 52 yards, including a 22-yard catch on fourth-and-15 late in the third quarter that extended a scoring drive.