Ball-hawking Hersey rallies past Fremd

 
By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/4/2018 2:43 PM
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Jordan Hansen and Hersey picked off a nice win against Fremd on Saturday.

Hansen's interception late in the first half triggered a chain of events that helped Hersey rally from a 10-point deficit en route to a 36-20 victory over Fremd in a game played at Palatine High School.

"I told the guys it was a great team effort," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said. "We got off to a slow start. But our guys didn't blink. Being young, we talked about the growth -- it was awesome."

Hansen, a junior, turned the game around for Hersey (2-0).

With Fremd leading 20-10 with 1:04 left in the first half, Hansen came up with a huge play.

Fremd, leading 20-10, faced a fourth-and-3 at the Hersey 45. After 2 timeouts, Fremd eschewed the punt and opted for another offensive play.

Hansen made the Vikings pay for that decision, stepping in front on an underthrown pass and returning it to the Fremd 30.

"I was just playing my coverage and I saw the ball going there and I went and got it," Hansen said. "Any ball there is our ball. I tried to take it to the house, but just didn't quite make it."

Three plays later, Hersey quarterback Ryan Justice broke free for an 8-yard touchdown run to make it 20-17 with 14 seconds left in the first half.

That opened the floodgates for Hersey.

The Huskies, who received the second half kickoff, struck just three minutes into the second half. Justice threw to Hansen for an 11-yard touchdown pass as Hersey forged ahead 23-20.

"It has been perfect," said Justice, who finished 19-of-25 passing for 206 yards. "The offense was on the same page. The game plan was correct, we just came out and executed it."

The Huskies weren't done.

After a three-and-out for Fremd, Hersey mounted a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Luke Picchiotti busted off a 2-yard touchdown run, and it was 29-20 with 2:44 left in the the third quarter.

The Hersey defense, which allowed just 48 rushing yards in the second half, stopped Fremd in three plays again.

"The first half, they kept running up the gut," said Hersey defensive lineman Nick Steiger, who had a sack and was credited with 12 tackles. "We had to adjust to that. Our safeties stepped up and helped."

Kacper Rutkiewicz, who finished with 9 receptions for 87 yards, put the game on ice with his feet. Rutkiewicz returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown to end the Huskies' scoring avalanche.

"I think we grew up a lot today," Pardun said. "Our guys came through and executed. They are very confident."

The game was played at Palatine because construction work on Fremd's football stadium was not completed in time for the Vikings' official home opener.

Fremd's Ryan Palmer got the student section up of its feet to start the game -- and then gave those fans plenty cheer about as he took the opening kickoff and went 92 yards for a touchdown to make it 6-0.

Fremd parent Maria Rattin, who has two sons on the team, says she likes how the Vikings have worked hard despite their field difficulties.

"Coming to Palatine the boys' senior year, at first it was a bit disappointing," Rattin said. "Just because the boys worked so hard and you want them on their home field. Just seeing the difference in the team and how the boys have jelled, I think they could play anywhere and be a team."

Fremd looked inspired when the Vikings (0-2) went up 13-0 on a 19-yard run by sophomore quarterback Ryan Saxe.

Hersey closed within 13-7 with 1:38 left in the first quarter when Justice connected with Vince Caruso on a 28-yard touchdown pass.

Fremd got its 13-point lead back when Saxe scored his second TD with 6:28 left in the first half, this one from 4 yards out.

Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said he did not have regrets over the momentum-swinging result at the end of the first half.

"I had confidence in our defense and confidence in our offense," Sponsel said. "Fourth and 3 at their 45-yard line, I would do it again. We got out-blocked and out-tackled. They fought harder than we did today."

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