Anyone who's seen even a small dose of West Aurora football this season knows the Blackhawks have a strong running game, and that ground game was very much on display on Friday in a 48-6 victory over visiting West Chicago.
Where West Aurora (5-2, 2-1 Upstate Eight Valley) really excelled, however, was on defense, where it limited the Wildcats (2-5, 1-3) to only one first quarter touchdown.
"We get up every morning and say we've got to get better," West Aurora junior linebacker Jerritt Gutierrez said. "We know we have to work harder in practice and everybody has to get things done every week."
Should West Aurora get a win in at least one of its two remaining games, it will become the first football team in school history to qualify for three straight postseasons.
"The defense really stepped up," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said. "We dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage and our linebackers really flowed to the football."
For a contest that ended up as one-sided on the scoreboard, the game opened with both teams trading touchdowns. Trevon Tittle, who finished with 104 rushing yards, scored from 28 yards to put the Blackhawks ahead.
The Wildcats responded with an 11-yard pass from quarterback Jeff Zajac to Luke Seeman.
"The talent level is never as big as it sometimes shows," West Chicago coach Ted Monken said. "It's about experience and being able to make an adjustment when they make an adjustment."
West Aurora answered with a 49-yard run by Hezekiah Salter -- the first of 3 Salter TDs in the game, and the Blackhawks were never seriously troubled again. Salter gained 175 yards in the contest.
"We've got a lot of runnings backs," Eimer said. "We did some really good things tonight. We figured out tonight that if you block for each other, it's amazing how things open up."
Monken said the final two weeks of the season will be very important as his team works to build a tradition.
"They're very good, but we're a M.A.S.H. unit," Monken said. "We have a ton of guys banged up and we have guys playing out of position. We have backups trying to step up and do their best in a starting role."
Leading 28-6 at halftime, the Blackhawks scored 20 points in the first half of the third quarter.
"Coming out at halftime, our mentality is that it's a whole new game," Gutierrez said. "Obviously, we try to make adjustments and we did that tonight. In the second half, it just started clicking faster."