Downers Grove South was carried on the shoulders of its dominant defense once again.
Despite a sloppy night offensively, Downers Grove South outlasted Leyden 20-0 on a rainy night in Northlake to move one step closer to the playoffs. It was the third straight shutout for the Mustangs (4-3, 4-1) and coach Mark Molinari believes people should take notice of his powerhouse defense if they haven't already.
"People don't know about our defense, but that's the third shutout in a row," Molinari said. "Our defense has given up 6 points in conference (play). Our defense keeps us in the game. We're going to run the ball, keep the game short and see what happens in the end."
Big plays aided the Mustangs in the end, too. Receiver Jaelynn Blecke started the game with an opening kickoff return to Leyden's 12. Three players later, quarterback Jayden Lambert punched it in from 4 yards out to give the Mustangs the lead for good.
After losing 11 yards on 9 total carries in the first quarter, Downers Grove South turned to its aerial attack. Quarterback Matthew Greenwald completed passes of 54 and 61 yards in the second quarter. He also connected with Vinny Provenzano on a 22-yard rainbow TD pass that put the Mustangs up 14-0 in the second quarter.
Going to the air on a rainy, windy night was a bold call by Molinari. Leyden's aggressive man coverage prompted Molinari to take a couple of shots downfield.
"They were just coming up and playing press-man (coverage) on us and, (if) you're going to take chances, we're going to take a chance too," Molinari said. "I think we caught them a couple of times.
"We knew that we were going to have to take advantage of them over the top and we got lucky a couple of times. The touchdown was not pretty, but we got it. We'll take it."
The unsung hero might have been junior kicker Tyler Bachara, who drilled field goals of 28 and 48 yards on a muddy field and through plenty of wind and rain. It was Bachara's kicking debut because senior kicker Jacob Holous was out with an injury.
Leyden (3-4, 2-2) couldn't seem to get out of its own way Friday night. The team went backward on several occasions in prime field position and turned the ball over two times. It's the second time in three games Leyden has been shutout. Eagles coach Tom Cerasani said his inexperienced offense has dealt with plenty of growing pains.
"It's a learning process," Cerasani said. "We put ourselves in positions to make some plays, but just didn't make them. It's unfortunate because I think the defense played a pretty good game other than a few big plays that they had."
It's do or die for the Eagles the rest of the way, as they must beat Hinsdale South at home before concluding the regular season at Morton. Leyden is aiming to make the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. Cerasani's bunch isn't giving up on that goal despite Friday's discouraging loss.
"We're not out of it yet," Cerasani said. "You're not out of it until you lose five. The kids know that and I think we're going to be close on points if we get to five wins. That's what we're going with right now."
Downers Grove South will look to clinch a playoff berth next week in its annual crosstown showdown against Downers Grove North before concluding the regular season in what figures to be a West Suburban Gold conference championship game against Willowbrook.