Wheaton North still looking for the big play

Updated 9/19/2018 7:14 PM
  • Bev Horne/borne@dailyherald.comAntowon Tolbert of Wheaton North football.

    Bev Horne/borne@dailyherald.comAntowon Tolbert of Wheaton North football.

Last year Wheaton North's football team averaged more than 200 rushing yards a game.

It's a little different this season but still kind of the same.

The Falcons remain committed to the run -- about 130 yards a game -- but it's not as explosive and they don't have a battering ram like graduated back Sam Singleton.

Antowon Tolbert returned after last season rushing for more than 400 yards, but his Week 1 injury forced junior Stephen Garner to switch from defense over to offense. When Garner also got dinged up in Week 3, the Falcons promoted Samson Zander from the sophomore team to help fill out the backfield.

In last week's 7-6 overtime win over Lake Park, all the backs were on display for Wheaton North. Tolbert returned to rush for 62 yards and the team's lone touchdown while Garner added 52 yards, Zander had 35 yards and quarterback Nathan Love had 24 yards.

It was enough to move the chains 14 times for first downs, but not enough to crack the end zone in regulation.

"We do have three kids who can carry it, but none of them have broken a long one yet," said Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski. "We just haven't had the home run in the run game."

With newfound depth in the backfield, Garner will be able to return to more defensive duty. Tolbert and Zander will carry the load on offense, although the Falcons hope to balance things out with more passing.

"As a whole unit we haven't executed enough to bust those big plays," Wardynski said. "We have to find it some way, whether it's with the pass or the run."

Winning combo:

The passing combination of Nick Plaso to Tavion Keith showed great progress in Glenbard South's 42-13 win over East Aurora.

Plaso, a junior, completed 21 of 29 pass attempts for 264 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Three of those scores came courtesy of Keith, a 5-foot-8, 140-pound senior receiver. Keith scored on plays of 23, 66 and 14 yards. Plaso also found sophomore Cade Hardtke 4 times for 56 yards and a 14-yard touchdown.

Keith's 12 receptions set a program record, and his 176 yards receiving rank third at Glenbard South.

"It was a game our receivers needed to have and our quarterback needed to have to boost their confidence," said Raiders coach Ryan Crissey. "The pace of play, and our receivers finally seeing everything starting to jell really has given us a boost of energy moving into playing a really athletic Larkin team."

A point guard for the Raiders' basketball team, Keith is a bundle of fast-twitch fibers, hard to bring down despite his size.

"His route-running and elusiveness makes it difficult to tackle him in the open field," Crissey said. "We try to utilize him in ways where we're not asking him to run over people, we're trying to put him in positions where he can have open field in front of him, where he can make one or two defenders miss for a long gain."

Plaso was the Raiders' starting sophomore quarterback the past two seasons. His footwork and pocket patience are catching up to his arm strength and accuracy.

"He's making the progress that we're expecting him to make, and he's really helped being that field general who is able to put the offense in good positions based on what the defense is giving us," Crissey said.

Vazquez gets it:

In a trying season to date for Glenbard North, Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens sees positives from quarterback Mike Vazquez.

"He's done some nice things for his first year," Wilkens said of the junior. "He understands what we want, has good timing, understands where we want the ball."

The younger brother of Indiana State freshman Jose Vazquez, the 2017 DuPage Valley Conference offensive lineman of the year, Mike Vazquez has established a connection on the field with junior receiver Kobie Jamison. Getting behind the defense, Jamison has caught 16 passes for 362 yards -- 22.6 yards a catch -- and 2 touchdowns.

Held without a touchdown pass in his first two games, Vazquez has thrown for 2 the last two games for Glenbard North.

"His development's been quick because of his understanding of the game and what we want to accomplish. He's been doing a better job of taking care of the football the last few games," Wilkens said.

Backing up last year's starting quarterback, Lee Rady, Vazquez witnessed game speed up close.

"The ability to not have to tell him anything twice is huge," Wilkens said. "Even when he runs the scout offense, he runs scout offense very well because he understands what we're trying to accomplish. He gets it."

Best wishes:

It's a sight no football fan, coach or player ever wants to see.

At last week's Glenbard West game at York, a stretcher was needed to carry Hilltoppers defensive back Kyle Dell off the field. The senior suffered a broken leg.

"It was one of those freak accidents," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "It's awful. You hate to see that happen to anyone."

Dell, a team captain and a starter on last season's basketball team, was one of seven returning starters for the football team. Before the second-half injury struck, he forced a fumble and broke up two passes.

In more ways than one, Dell's absence will hurt the Hilltoppers.

"It's tough to keep playing after something like that, but our guys kept going," Hetlet said. "He was on his way to being an all-conference defensive back for us. He's just an awesome kid."

Close but:

Addison Trail has struggled to put points on the scoreboard this season, something that's become a source of frustration for the Blazers.

"It's frustrating because we're right there," said Addison Trail coach Paul Parpet. "We have to capitalize on our opportunities."

Willowbrook charged to a 14-0 lead on the Blazers last week. Addison Trail drove inside the Warriors' 20-yard line only to be turned away without any points. The Blazers' defense held and the offense again drove into the red zone -- and still the Blazers scored no points.

The Blazers amassed nearly 200 yards last week, including 111 on the ground despite leading rusher J'Lan Williams going down with an injury. Quarterback Nick Daudelin wound up leading the team with 40 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Running back Pablo Mosely is slated to return from injury for this week's game against Downers Grove South. With Kevin Catano also expected to contribute, the Blazers hope to move the ball better.

Playmakers Vince Daudelin and Dennis Ionikov coming back should help as well.

"If we can finish drives we'll be able to compete," Parpet said. "So far we've struggled to do that."

Aerial display:

It may have come in a 38-26 loss to Larkin, but West Chicago and quarterback Luke Krogh sent the Wildcats passing game into rare air.

A junior, Krogh completed 26 of 45 passes for 362 yards and 4 touchdowns. Slot receiver Mike Wagner caught 8 passes for 148 yards. Wide receiver Santiago Barbosa caught 12 passes for 114 yards and another wideout, Alphonso Diaz-Thomas, scored on a 65-yard pass play.

"All in all, offensively we're getting dynamic and I think we could be a threat at any time," said Wildcats coach Jack Rustman.

For comparison's sake, in nine games last season West Chicago passed for 720 yards. By yardage its top receiver had 280 yards; by receptions the leader had 22.

Taking what the defense allowed, Krogh's passes were quick hitters.

"Most of them were shorter passes, the ball's off within two or three seconds," Rustman said. "The ball's off into open space and the kids have a chance to do something with it."

Larkin chose to take away the run and was successful in that. But the Wildcats passing barrage will give this week's opponent, Elgin, much more to consider.

"Elgin will try to bring pressure, so if the offensive line can block we can make something happen," Rustman said.

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