Nobody has ever accused school buses of being the world's most comfortable mode of transportation, so maybe Wheaton Warrenville South's long ride to Lockport was a legitimate reason for the Tigers' sluggish start and 17-7 halftime deficit in Friday night's nonconference contest.
At least that's Tigers linebacker Jake Stransky's story, and he's sticking to it.
"Man, that bus ride was so long," he said. "Then we woke up and finally got some energy."
It truly was an entirely different story in the second half. WW South limited the Porters to 2 first downs, 71 total yards and outscored them 24-0 to notch a 31-17 victory, which had to make the long trek home a much happier one.
"We didn't come out to play really well in the first half," said WW South coach Ron Muhitch. "I appreciate how the kids came out in the second half. The defensive coaches did a good job of making adjustments, we nullified their two best players (running back Austin Hoffman and quarterback Jake Karli), and we got some turnovers, too."
The turnovers proved to be the difference. After the Tigers (2-6) put together a 71-yard drive on the second half's first possession that was capped by Ryan Young's 2-yard plunge to make it 17-14, WW South forced turnovers on three of Lockport's next four possessions.
The first was Stransky's fumble recovery at the Lockport 21, which led to Jack Olsen's game-tying 34-yard field goal. Next was Jake Healy's interception and 22-yard return that set up Young's second 2-yard TD run. Finally, Nasri Khayal pounced on another Lockport (1-7) fumble, leading to Young's third score, this one from 12 yards out that closed the soring with a little more than six minutes to play.
Young was a workhorse all night for WW South, with 37 carries for 152 yards and the 3 TDs. At one point in the fourth quarter, with the Tigers looking to burn clock, he carried the ball on 14 straight offensive plays.
"Our run game has been great the last two weeks," Young said. "We just wanted to keep it going, control the clock and close it out."
The Tigers actually opened the soring with Zach Harris hooking up with Chase Stebbins for a 66-yard score less than five minutes into the game. From there, though, the first half belonged to the Porters. Hoffman and Karli combined for 133 yards rushing in the half and Hoffman tied the game on an 11-yard run. Karli connected with Michael Palumbo on a 12-yard score. Ryan Barth closed the half with a 43-yard field goal with 20 seconds left, before that halftime horn appeared to serve as a wakeup call for the Tigers.