Prospect defeats Deerfield
How fitting that on Prospect's final defensive play on Friday night, Deerfield's pass tipped off Knights defensive back Gary Moeller and into the hands of linebacker Michael Shafis for an interception.
All night, whenever the ball was in Shafis' hands, good things seemed to happen for the home team.
The senior's pick near midfield wrapped up a 23-14 win for the Knights before a big turnout of alumni and students who saw their football team win for the third time in four nonconference games to start the season.
The Homecoming crowd at George Gattas Memorial Stadium also saw Shafis dash to touchdowns runs of 35 and 42 yards, race into the Deerfield backfield for a 6-yard sack and boom a 64-yard punt that back the visitors up to their own 14-yard line midway through the third quarter.
"I have been playing with him for a long time," said Prospect quarterback Jimmy Martin. "He is a freak, a freak of nature. I don't know any other way to describe it. The kid just does it all. He is the most complete football player I have ever seen at the high school level."
Martin completed 11-of-18 passes for 81 yards, including a 13-yard TD strike to Ryan Traviolia which gave Prospect a 17-0 lead less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Deerfield (1-3) kept things suspenseful in the final 10 minutes as junior quarterback Ryan Nagelbach threw 27 and 19-yard touchdown passes to Alexander Cohan, the second one getting the Warriors to within 17-13 with 3:39 left.
But that's when Martin marched the Knights 77 yards to the end zone in just five plays.
The first was a 21-yard jaunt by Shafis. Moments later, Martin hooked up with Nicholas Mariani for a 13-yard pass that got the Knights into Warriors' territory.
On the next play, using his linemen Andrew Tertel, Armen Surenian, Caleb Smith, Mitchell Kamp and Eric Malinowski, Shafis wove his way to the end zone, giving him 101 yards rushing for the game. Teammate Luke Zardzin grinded his way to 67 yards.
"The offensive line was excellent tonight," Martin said. "The pass protection was great. The run blocking was great. They've gotten better every week. You can't win football games without the offensive line and they have been great."
Anthony Santangelo's 22-yard field marked the first time Prospect scored in the first quarter this season. The 10 points at half were a season high.
"All week we've been saying we have to put four quarters together, and I think we're getting there," Martin said. "But this was the most compete game we've played."
Moeller also had a big interception late in the third quarter. Teammates Michael Cima and Adam Mekky each recovered fumbles.
"We can talk about great effort at the end but we should not have been in that position," said Deerfield coach Steve Winiecki. "Prospect is a good team and you can't give a good team opportunities like we did, and that's on me.
"We did have those two scoring drives and that was a receiver (Cohan) who's been injured all season. We were throwing the ball well. I think defensively we are every good. We are just inconsistent."
Knights coach Dan Deboeuf praised his defense.
"I think it goes back to coach (Brock) Collins getting those guys prepared on a weekly basis," Deboeuf said. "I think our defense is definitely the backbone of our team right now. So we going to continue to lean on those guys."
And they can lean on Shafis.
"He is a real special athlete and an ever better kid," Deboeuf added. "He is an awesome leader. He is doing a great job. He is so selfless. He is just is ready to play wherever we use him, so that's pretty awesome."
Martin said the Knights rookie coach, who formerly headed up the Johnsburg program, is making the big difference.
"I think coach Deboeuf is impacting the culture and the whole program," Martin said "He has been huge -- nothing but positive vibes from him and honestly he has been flawless.
"He never has a bad day. He is always the first one here, 6 a.m. in the weight room every day. He is very eager, young, talented and smart. There is so much I can say about him."
Martin calls the 3-1 start 'huge' for the Knights.
"Since January we have been stressing bringing this program back where it belongs," he said. "We know about those powerhouse teams in the early 2000s winning those state championships. We've been struggling, not making the playoffs the last six years. That's going to change. It just has to, and it will."