Jessen, Willowbrook advance to quarterfinals
Jack Jessen could run a marathon and you still wouldn't hear him say he's tired.
"I don't get tired at all," the Willowbrook senior said.
So a 46-carry day in a hurry-up offense, coupled with playing a majority of the game at linebacker will hardly make the senior break a sweat.
"I go where the coaches tell me to go," Jessen said.
What the coaches asked of Jessen led to 213 yards and 3 touchdowns, as Willowbrook claimed a 29-10 win over DeKalb in the second round of IHSA Class 6A playoffs.
"He doesn't ever get tired," Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth said. "People talk about him getting stronger, he's just the exact same all the time, all the regular humans get tired."
So how does Jessen get his seemingly endless stamina?
"It's because of wrestling, actually," Jessen said. "The training with wrestling, it really prepares my conditioning so that makes me last longer in these football games."
Hildreth has never heard Jessen ask for a breather or complain about the workload.
Actually, it's quite the opposite.
"He's mad when he comes off the field," Hildreth said. "You take him out in spots and he gets upset about it, that's the only time he'll complain, when he has to get off the field."
Feeding Jessen was clearly the game plan and something the Warriors (10-1) found success with early on.
On the opening drive Jessen had 9 carries for 40 yards as Betty-Ann Garrett kicked a 33-yard field goal.
Jessen's play also opened up the Willowbrook offense.
Chris Diaz ran for 104 yards and a touchdown, John Taylor threw for 178 yards and Sikander Zafar had 114 receiving yards.
"The run game was there, we kept pounding it and pounding it," Jessen said. "After a while we realized they were crashing hard, that's when we started going with the pass game. When we were mixing it up, they just couldn't defend it."
Just as importantly, the Willowbrook defense had just as strong of a start.
DeKalb (8-3) was forced to a three-and-out on its first drive.
"It set the tone a lot," cornerback Scott Tumilty said. "When we march down and get a quick 3 and then they go three-and-out it set the tone and it helped push us to get the win."
It gave the Warriors defense some confidence to stop the Barbs' running game.
DeKalb was held to 87 rushing yards in the game.
"The whole week, coach preached to us stopping the jet (sweep), stopping the dive, and as long as we did that and played more physical than them, we'd win," Tumilty said.
For all the dominance Willowbrook showed early, DeKalb hung strong. The Warriors led 15-10 at the half, and DeKalb seemingly went into the half with momentum, kicking a field goal as time expired.
"We wanted to come out and just keep it on them and not let up at all," Jassen said.
That's exactly what the Warriors did. The Willowbrook defense stopped any momentum DeKalb tried to build out of the half, as they forced consecutive three-and-outs.
"Really important," Tumilty said. "It gave our defense more confidence to play. From there it was all she wrote."
Jassen added touchdowns on consecutive drives in the third and fourth quarters that sealed the win for Willowbrook.
"We expected a battle," Jessen said "That was definitely one of the most physical games we've had this year."
The win sets up a quarterfinal matchup with undefeated Prairie Ridge.
And, if it was up to Jessen, he would've played the game immediately after Saturday's game ended.
"Yeah, I'm excited," Jessen said with a smile.