IC Catholic Prep won the coin toss and deferred to host Wheaton Academy, the second-most notable aspect of Saturday's pregame captains meeting.
Wheaton Academy starting quarterback Ben Thorson joined the group on crutches, resting a banged-up leg. Lacking Thorson was not preferred against the defending Class 3A football champion.
Enter Michael Cortez, who helped Wheaton Academy draw even before ICCP thundered to 52 unanswered points for a 59-7 victory in West Chicago.
"It was difficult," Cortez said. "They were very sound on defense. We tried running the ball, they would counter it and they would stop us for a loss. There were a couple times we were able to beat it and get some yards off that. It was just a tough game overall."
IC Catholic (6-1, 3-0) clinched a playoff berth and looks to next week's battle of Metro Suburban Blue unbeatens against Glenbard South.
"That was one of our goals for the season, start with getting in the playoffs and then try for a conference title," said Knights coach Bill Krefft.
Wheaton Academy (3-4, 0-2) mustered 75 yards of offense to 434 for ICCP, which recovered 3 of 6 Warriors fumbles, including Khali Saunders' 6-yard touchdown return after his brother, Khalil, rocked a ball carrier.
"They're a good team. We'd have to play a pretty perfect game," said Wheaton Academy coach Brad Thornton.
Of Cortez, Thornton noted: "He's a tough kid, did exactly what we asked him to do. Proud of him."
Cristian Carstens showed guts, too. On a goal-line stand ICCP linebacker Kemon Reese blasted Carstens' helmet off on a clean play. Two plays later Carstens followed guard Graham Wall for a 2-yard touchdown. Miles VanderKlok's kick tied the score 7-7 at 3:04 of the first quarter.
"After the first score we did have a momentum going in," Cortez said. "And then once they scored I was just keeping up my teammates, making sure they stayed up and hopefully the next drive we would come back and score again."
Not to be. C.J. West -- settling in nicely for ICCP's own injured quarterback, Luke Ricobene -- threw his second and third touchdown passes for a 38-7 halftime lead. Kevin Cooke set up the last score, to Jake Lytton, by recovering a pooch kickoff.
Cooke, a linebacker, is IC's top tackler as a sophomore.
"It's really fun," he said. "I mean, all the guys have really supported me and have given me confidence to play my best."
Spelling starting running back Lazerick Eatman, freshman Kyle Franklin ran for 218 yards with second-half touchdown runs of 62, 10 and 42 yards. Reese served as blocking fullback on touchdowns by both.
"Hopefully one day coach will let me get a carry, one day," Reese said.