Rhinehart rallies Mundelein to victory at Grant
This game was played mostly in the trenches, but Mundelein slot receiver knew his chance to pull off a big play would likely come eventually.
Rhinehart ripped off three long runs late in the game and the Mustangs scored twice in the fourth quarter to pull out a 15-6 nonconference victory at Grant on Friday.
"We're a ground and pound football team," Rhinehart said. "We just drive them down and hit them with a big play. There's always going to be a big play coming."
Rhinehart delivered the play that finally got the Mustangs offense moving. On third-and-18 late in the third quarter, he took a hand off on a jet sweep, but cut it straight up the middle for a 25-yard gain.
Mundelein ended up turning the ball over on downs. But on the very next play, Grant fumbled the snap and it was recovered by Mustangs linebacker Jake Prejna at the 26-yard line.
Rhinehart had an 11-yard burst to the 2, setting up Xavier Ortiz' touchdown run with 11:24 left in the fourth quarter. Rhinehart caught the 2-point conversion to give Mundelein the lead.
Before it was over, Rhinehart turned on the jets for a 45-yard touchdown run and Miller Tyler's extra point put the game on ice with 5:24 left. Rhinehart finished with 90 yards rushing on 7 carries.
"They came out in a totally different defense than we expected to see," Mundelein coach Vince DeFrancesco said. "They changed their defense this year, I don't know if that was for us or if that's the plan. First half, we spent a lot of time talking. At halftime, we were able to really sit down and show our kids, 'This is what they're doing.' I'm just so proud of the way our kids competed."
Grant brought a new twist to the offense also. The Bulldogs lined up with just one running back in the backfield, Alex Gomez, who lined up in a 3-point stance, roughly two steps behind sophomore quarterback Rylan Art.
Nine of Grant's first 10 plays went straight up the middle, with either Gomez or Art plowing forward, sometimes side-by-side. It worked well enough to pick up 3 first downs on the opening drive. Then on fourth-and-8, Art finally tossed it downfield and found Bryton Reynolds down the right sideline for a 23-yard touchdown.
Former Grant head coach Kurt Rous returned to the varsity staff in the spring and worked with the offense. This didn't look like the triple-option Rous used when the Bulldogs made the playoffs six times from 2006-12, though.
There was a flurry of turnovers down the stretch. After Mundelein took the lead, Grant lost another fumbled snap on its next drive. But the Mustangs lost the ball on a run inside the 15-yard line and the Bulldogs were back in business, still trailing by 2.
Grant followed with two of its biggest gains of the day. Alex Art made an acrobatic catch on a pass from his younger brother for a 19-yard gain. Then Gomez broke loose for his longest run of the day, but just past midfield, Mundelein's Lucas Dickey reached in and ripped the ball away for another turnover. Gomez finished with 68 rushing yards and Rylan Art 58.
The game was delayed by a large number of injury timeouts, mostly due to players cramping in the hot weather.
"Jake Prejna, he was all over the field tonight," DeFrancesco said. "Versus that run-heavy offense, he didn't come off the field. Week 1 in this heat, I thought our kids were in pretty good shape and they just wanted to win so bad. Him, Miguel Hernandez, Monte Alemu, Omari Rhinehart, Nate Miller -- some of our two-way starters, they didn't want to come off the field."