Football teams want contributions from the offense, defense and special teams during the course of a game.
Wheaton North got all of it in the first half.
Big plays in each of the three phases powered the Falcons to a surprisingly convincing 35-7 victory over Fenwick in the opening round of the Class 7A playoffs.
Sophomore Christian Halstead opened the game with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as No. 13 Wheaton North (8-2) stormed to a 21-0 lead over the No. 20 Friars (6-4) early in the second quarter.
A fourth-down stop at the Falcons' 2-yard line sparked a 98-yard scoring drive -- every yard gained on nine runs by Sam Singleton, who capped it with a 2-yard touchdown. Three plays into the ensuing possession, Jackson Gray snared an interception and returned it 28 yards for another Wheaton North touchdown.
Just like that the Falcons were in complete control.
"We put a lot of work into all three facets of the game and I thought it really showed today," Gray said. "We played physical. We played fast. I knew our offense was going to score. I knew we'd have success in special teams, too. And I'm always confident in our defense."
Wheaton North ran only 10 first-half plays. All were on the ground, including the nine by Singleton and a 65-yard touchdown run by Antowon Tolbert that answered an 8-yard touchdown run by Fenwick quarterback Danny Cronin.
Even though the offense barely saw the field, it still added up to a 28-7 halftime lead for the Falcons.
"It was a couple of big plays and fortunately we were in position to do some good things offensively," said Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski. "For us to be up three scores at half, we were very fortunate."
Fenwick had first down at the Falcons' 13-yard line with a chance to make it a two-score game late in the third quarter, but Wheaton North's defense came up with another stop. Four plays later, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Rhett Netzer lofted a 58-yard touchdown pass to Alex Adams to put the outcome to rest at 35-7.
Singleton needed only 14 carries to rush for 176 yards, The Falcons' defense bent but held a team to single-digit scoring for the fourth time this season.
Wheaton North faces a second-round road game against a future DuKane Conference opponent: No. 4 Batavia (10-1).
"They've got a pretty good team, but I feel like we just played better," said Falcons defensive lineman De'Quan Ramsey. "We just put our best foot forward and we all played together as 11."
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