Willowbrook's coming on strong after 0-2 start

  • Willowbrook's Nick Mabutas, pictured making a tackle in a 2019 playoff game against Mt. Carmel, has helped the Warriors win three straight after an 0-2 start.

    Willowbrook's Nick Mabutas, pictured making a tackle in a 2019 playoff game against Mt. Carmel, has helped the Warriors win three straight after an 0-2 start. Sean King for the Daily Herald

By Gregg Voss
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/28/2021 5:43 PM

It's true that Willowbrook got off to a bit of a slow start this season, but the Warriors have bounced back with a vengeance, winning three in a row heading into Friday's tilt with Addison Trail.

What's been the difference for Willowbrook (3-2, 3-0) since tough defeats to Providence Catholic and Downers Grove North to begin the campaign? Lots.


"I really think the main difference has been, the last three we really came together as a team," said senior defensive end and outside linebacker Cristian Lager. "We're one of these teams that's slower to put the pieces together. Which I think is great, because we learned a lot along the way."

Senior defensive back Nick Mabutas, who also plays receiver, added that offensively, the team figured out its identity, which allowed it to shore up areas of need. The other benefit is the team got closer on that side of the ball.

On the other side, Mabutas said, "we switched up our defense a little bit. Now I'm kind of able to free flow a lot more, and we've been pursuing to the ball better as a team."

Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth has nothing but good things to say about his defensive stars.

"He was on the 2019 semifinal team, he's a three-year starter," Hildreth said of Mabutas. "He's a super-unselfish kid. We move him all over the place and he's remained a consistent force for us."

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Of Lager, Hildreth said, "He just flies around. He's another guy willing to do anything for the team. He was a defensive back before moving to the defensive line."

Kane blue-collar for Benet

Benet coach Pat New sees senior receiver Jack Kane is the prototypical blue-collar guy who punches in, works hard, and then punches out.

"Last spring as a junior, he was playing well, but he couldn't crack the starting lineup," New said. "He showed signs at practice. Week 2 against Moline, he got open for a 50-yard scoring play and then did it again against Marian."

That latter play led to Benet's 47-28 defeat of Marian Catholic last Friday to improve the Redwings' record to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in conference.

Kane put on 10 pounds in the short off-season, and notes that he is more comfortable with the playbook. All that is paying dividends for his team.

"I feel like I've got a better football IQ than last year," he said, adding that being a starter is "obviously more fun playing than watching. I'm having a lot of fun now."


Moore, Lambert pace DGN

Sometimes, you have to make a position change for the better of the team. That was the situation for Connor Moore over at Downers North.

Moore is a senior captain and started the year at tackle but had to shift to center for a variety of reasons. Admittedly, he had some qualms about the move, but he's adapted.

"It's definitely not my favorite position on the line, but it's good to be a leader at that position," he said. "I would just say I lead by example and answer people's questions. We have a lot of rotations going on. If you don't know who you're blocking, just ask me."

Another player that has stepped into the limelight for the Trojans has been junior outside linebacker Josh Lambert. Of Lambert, DGN coach Joe Horeni said, "every week the (opposing) offensive coordinator is concerned about him."

Lambert was all-conference as a sophomore last spring and is a strong tackler in open space. He also makes all the calls for the defense.

The spring season was fruitful for Lambert because of his mindset. He took it as a kind of practice season, focusing on fundamentals like hitting and tackling. It has already paid off for DGN (4-1, 1-1), which faces a true test Friday at Hinsdale Central.

"I think defensively, we've just put ourselves in the mindset that we can be better and we can prove something this year," Lambert said. "We haven't had a team at North recently that has the potential we do."

Carr steps up for Hinsdale South

Here's a stat line you don't see everyday: 10 tackles, four sacks, six tackles for loss, four hurries and two pass breakups. Oh, and one of those sacks resulted in a fumble returned for a touchdown.

Welcome to the big time, Griffin Carr.

The 6-foof-4, 235-pound Carr has been a force on the defensive line this season for Hinsdale South (2-3, 2-0), producing the aforementioned stats in a 24-14 victory over Morton last Friday.

Carr, a junior, played quarterback as a freshman, then played both sides of the line last spring as a sophomore on varsity, and is doing the same thing this season.

He said the key to his success, and thus the team's success, against Morton was watching the Mustangs' pulling guard and then getting into the backfield to cause havoc there. It worked to a T.

"Honestly, playing in the spring as a sophomore, I have gotten used to the speed of the game," Carr said. "I've been focusing on technique and doing the best I can."

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