Benet Academy will continue its march in the Class 7A football state playoffs after the visiting Redwings knocked out No. 3 seed Rolling Meadows 15-8 on Saturday night.
The No. 11 Redwings (10-2) next host East St. Louis, taking on the No. 2 Flyers on Saturday.
"Again, our defense was just awesome," said Benet head coach Pat New. "They've been great all year. Tonight our special teams came through when we really needed them."
Punter Brian Uhler was able to pin the 11-1 Mustangs deep in their own territory with 11:38 left in the game with a 60-yard boomer to the 2.
As it turned out, it was a key play.
Three plays later Benet's Brett Kerger sacked Rolling Meadows quarterback Asher O'Hara for a 7-yard loss into the end zone for a 2-point safety.
That play gave the Redwings a little breathing room at 12-8 with 10:21 left.
The Mustangs had earlier closed a 10-0 gap to 10-8 when linebacker Kevin Haltman returned quarterback Jack Sznajder's pass 40 yards for a touchdown. Kevin LaCosse's 2-point run finished the Mustangs' scoring.
Uhler's 34-yard punt to the Rolling Meadows 1 again put the Mustangs' backs to the wall.
A second interception by Danny O'Malley and 20-yard return to the Mustangs 10 three plays later set up Victor Karam's second field goal, a 25-yarder, for the 15-8 lead with 6:17 left in the game.
"We really work hard on the special teams game," said Uhler. "Tonight we were able to put them deep in their own end of the field."
Rolling Meadows had two more chances to score but could not get further than its own 36.
"Their defense was really good," said Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler, "and we knew that going in. They were flying around us -- we just got backed up in the second half. In the first half we moved the ball but then some penalties stopped what would have been good plays."
Benet's defense limited Rolling Meadows to 220 yards and just 76 yards passing from O'Hara, who finished 7 of 19 with 2 interceptions.
"We new we had to stop their run game right out of the gate," said Benet linebacker John D'Angelo (7 tackles, 3 assists). "We knew they had skilled runners, and if we were going to win we had to shut them down. To win tonight we all had to do our jobs."
Rolling Meadows had first-half chances with a fumble recovery by Marco Perez and interceptions by Devonte Amos and Justin Thompson. But Benet's defense held tight.
"We have to be able to clean up the turnovers when we play next week," said New. "We played pretty good assignment football. Our guys have seen their type of offense, so we were pretty well prepared."
Benet's lone touchdown came on an 11-play, 89-yard drive midway through the second quarter.
Sznajder finished the drive with a 20-yard pass to Marty Dosen with 5:31 left in the second quarter.
"It was a designed wheel route," said Sznajder, "and Marty ran it perfectly. He stopped a little to shake off the defense. That helped him get wide open.
"Our offensive line gave us some really good push on that drive. They had a great defense and were stuffing our running game, so we had to pass on that drive."
Sznajder finished 22 of 34 with 2 interceptions for 234 of Benet's 324 yards.
Haltman had 8 tackles for the Mustangs, including 3 for lost yardage.
"We needed a big play when I made that interception," said Haltman. "We were still down but I thought things could go our way. I'm just so proud of my teammates. We played every down as hard as we could."