Woodstock North executed its ball control offense to perfection in the second half against Burlington Central.
The Thunder chewed up nearly 16 minutes on a pair of methodical drives that netted 10 points and proved to be the difference in a pivotal 17-7 Kishwaukee River victory over Central Friday night in front of a soggy and disappointed Homecoming crowd on Rocket Hill.
Woodstock North senior quarterback Collin Mergl made all the right decisions in the read option, rushing for 150 yards on 25 carries while pitching the ball effectively to Joe Grover, who added 85 yards on 14 attempts.
"That's what those offenses do. They keep the ball and they kept our offense off the field," said Rockets coach Brian Melvin, as Woodstock North ran 38 plays in the second half to just 15 for Central. "Their quarterback is a nice football player. He was rolling tonight."
"I know it's the modern spread era, but in Illinois when you have weather like this, it really pays to be able to control the ball and that's our philosophy," said Thunder coach Jeff Schroeder.
Woodstock North (4-3, 4-1) took advantage of a short field on its opening drive, marching 54 yards for a score on 5 plays. After a pair of 19-yard outside runs from Nicco Mazzanti and Grover, Mergl plunged in from 2 yards out for a 7-0 lead.
The Thunder moved down to the Rockets' 25 midway through the second quarter when Central senior linebacker Ryan Doubek came up with an impressive one-handed interception on Mergl's pass in the flat and rambled back to midfield.
Central capitalized four plays later as Nick Termini took a pitch and made a nimble cut back, darting 31 yards up middle for a touchdown. Andrew Solomon's extra point tied the game at 7-7 at the half.
Opening the second half, Woodstock North converted three third downs and a fourth down during an 18-play drive, but the Rockets' defense held up in the red zone and forced a 27-yard field goal with 2:42 left in the third quarter.
Termini gained 27 yards on Central's ensuing drive, but Melvin elected to punt facing 4th-and-5 from the Thunder 47 with 11 minutes left.
"I can't give them the ball at midfield," Melvin said. "They had a lot of momentum after the field goal. We needed to punt it and pin them down there."
The Rocket defense couldn't come up with the needed stop as Mergl capped an impressive 76-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Carter Coalson on 4th-and-9 with 4:35 left to play.
"We just didn't execute and we didn't hit our gaps like we were supposed to," Doubek said. "We just have to prepare for the next game."
"Coach Melvin's done a great job and they really looked impressive on film," Schroeder said. "We knew we had our hands full, but I'm really proud of our team. This is a big win for us."
Termini finished with 94 yards on 11 carries for Central while Matt Ganziano added 58 yards rushing mostly out of the Wildcat.
After throwing 6 touchdowns against Woodstock last week, sophomore quarterback Jake Lenschow was hampered by the conditions and completed just 2-of-9 passes for 24 yards and an interception.
Central now faces must win road games against Marengo and Harvard to have any chance of reaching the playoffs.
"We have to bounce back again. I have to get that tennis ball back out," Melvin said.