Senior and third-year starter Austin Tixier has been a driving force up front in Prospect's seventh straight playoff appearance.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
A must-win situation hardly seemed to be the time to reduce Austin Tixier's role.
The Prospect senior and third-year starter on the defensive line had also become an instrumental part of the offensive line. But now Paul Schoessling was ready to step in offensively and head coach Mike Sebestyen wanted to be able to turn Tixier loose on defense in a Week 8 game against Rolling Meadows.
How did the move to one-way Tixier work? Pretty well in an 18-13 victory that propelled Prospect toward its seventh straight playoff berth and Saturday's visit to unbeaten Glenbard West for a Class 7A first-round game.
"Everyone saw what happened when he was just able to play defense," Sebestyen said of Tixier's 3 sacks, 5 tackles, 8 quarterback pressures and 2 forced fumbles. "He was a terror."
Mainly because the 6-foot-2, 242-pound Tixier was solely in his element again.
"When I got a chance to go both ways it was a big opportunity and I loved doing it," Tixier said. "But defensively I'm more comfortable. I've been playing defense my entire high school career and I know it so well."
Which was vital this year since Tixier and linebacker Mike Etchingham were the only returning defensive starters. Tixier's varsity experience helped with newcomers Shola George, Mike Mayerck and Mike Houghton up front.
Tixier's experience and ability has also subjected him to numerous double teams and occasional triple teams.
"People really had to focus on Austin and they know it," Sebestyen said. "When he is single-blocked, especially on a passing down, he is in the quarterback's lap.
"He's been a catalyst of what we're trying to do with that front four."
Tixier not only enjoys the challenge of trying to split multiple offensive linemen and a lead blocker but also seeing the results.
"To me it's just a good as getting a big play at the line or behind the line of scrimmage," Tixier said. "If two or three guys are on you then two or three guys are open to make a play.
"One of the greatest things is to get double-teamed and watch the guy next to you make a play."
Tixier hopes to continue playing at the next level and said he has talked to Wyoming, where Prospect grad Nick Carlson plays center, Eastern Illinois, Toledo and other Mid-American Conference schools. He has a 4.0 grade-point average and is considering studying natural resources.
And Tixier is looking forward to Saturday's big challenge against a state-title contender that features 6-4, 285-pound Stanford recruit Johnny Caspers on the offensive line.
"Going against guys in the MSL you get to see guys now and then who are pretty good," Tixier said. "The talent level goes up in the playoffs. You get guys that give you a challenge and you get excited about that."