Hersey completes run to East title
You have to go back 27 years to find the last time Hersey's football team was an outright Mid-Suburban League divisional champion.
The boys who made it happen again with Friday's 41-20 win over visiting Prospect weren't even born in 1991.
"It's kind of a surreal feeling at this point," said senior Timmy Somary, whose 8-yard reception set up Owen Goldsberry's 3-yard TD run to give Hersey a 27-7 lead with 45.6 seconds left in the first half. "I don't think we really understand the moment. It's just exciting -- and we're not done yet."
The Mid-Suburban East champion Huskies (8-1, 5-0) will go into the state playoffs with a seven-game game winning streak, its only loss coming at Hoffman Estates in Week 2.
"We haven't loss since the Hoffman game," said senior lineman Will Ebert, who helped pave the way for nearly 450 offensive yards. "After that, we didn't want to have that feeling again. We've worked as hard as we could to not lose another one."
Not only haven't they lost, the Huskies set a regular-season record for fewest points allowed (80), breaking the former record of the 2001 team (98 points).
"This is pretty exciting," said Hersey coach Joe Pardun. "I was telling the boys this (winning East outright) isn't an easy thing to do around here in this conference and in this sport.
"So I'm just really impressed and obviously impressed by our kids and our coaching staff. They both really work hard and it's been a real honor working for all those guys."
Working hard up front for Hersey along with Ebert were Jake Mailloux, Kevin Elliott, Luke Roos, Ryan Derrig, Brendan Watson and Austin Korba. Nick Steger worked hard on the defensive side, taking part in a few tackles for losses.
Goldsberry completed 8-of-11 passes for 205 yards and rushed for another 133, including a 74-yard TD dash in the game's first minute. He ran for 3 TDs and passed for 2.
Both TD strikes were to Kacper Rutkiewicz (37 and 43 yards) on well-run routes toward the middle of the field.
They were Hersey's second and third TDs and gave the hosts a 20-0 lead midway though the second quarter.
"The coaching staff talks about Kacper (6 catches for 121 yards) all the time," Pardun said. "I don't know if you'll find a kid with as much or more grit. He's just all about it. He never stops working and just seeing the improvement and maturity in him is amazing. He's just a pleasure to coach."
Prospect coach Mike Sebestyen will have the pleasure to coach many of the same players next season, including QB Jimmy Martin (117 passing yards, 70 rushing) and running back Michael Shafis (111 yards).
"Michael and Jimmy ran hard," Sebestyen said "I thought the line did a decent job at times. Some of it was the same stuff we've struggled with as the year's gone on. We get moving a little bit -- then kind of shoot ourselves in the foot.
"Give Hersey credit. You understand why they're an 8-1 football team. They did a great job. They attack. Mike (Donatucci, defensive coordinator) has done a great job of getting that defense to play downhill on people. They use their people properly."
Martin's 6-yard TD run to cap a 93-yard drive with 1:23 got Prospect to within 20-7 with 1:23 left in the first half.
"The fact that it is 20-7 right before the half, you're like 'OK, we're going to get the ball back in the second half and make a game of this,' " Sebestyen said. "We're only a minute away from half but then they get that big pass on first down (Goldsberry to Jimmy Matanovic for 56 yards), and it's a crusher."
Two plays later, Goldsberry raced into the end zone.
"But we got the score back to 27-13 (52-yard run up the middle by Shafis in the third quarter)," Sebestyen said. "But at some point their athletes wore us down."
The Huskies added two more TDs in the third quarter on Goldsberry's 4-yard run (34-13) and Luke Cecala's 24-yard run, which made it 41-13 with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
Martin's scored from 1 yard out with 0.5 seconds left in the game to make it 41-20.
"We've got a lot of guys back," Sebestyen added. "The experience is nice, but it doesn't mean anything if you don't take care of business in the off-season. It's going to be incumbent on our kids to take advantage of what they've learned this season and put it into use over the next nine months. We've got a lot of work away from the spotlight to get better."
Hersey will continue in the state playoff spotlight.
"Prospect always has a strong running game," Somary said. "We had to come in offensively and defensively and play our game. It was about us tonight and doing what we've been doing all season. I'm really proud of the team and how we accomplished that."