High five (shutout) for Warren against Stevenson
Every time Warren's defense allows a first down, which it does nearly as infrequently as it yields points, the players have to run sprints up the hill by the O'Plaine Campus tennis courts.
Blue Devils coach Bryan McNulty says the players, notably senior cornerback Tavion McCarthy, came up with the "punishment."
The Blue Devils have hardly killed the grass this season.
They put together another dominant defensive effort Friday night in their North Suburban Conference showdown against visiting Stevenson, allowing just 5 first downs and notching their fifth shutout of the season in capturing a 21-0 victory. And this one was particularly special, as Warren clinched a share of its first conference championship since 2008.
The Blue Devils (7-1, 6-0) will win the NSC title outright by beating host Mundelein next Friday night.
Not that they're satisfied, despite winning for the seventh week in a row.
"We got to be elite on everything," sophomore linebacker Malachi McNeal said.
"We just got to keep preparing," junior linebacker Juan DelaCruz said. "We can't take anybody lightly."
The hill awaits if they do.
"It's a weird group," McNulty joked. "They really believe that they're going to shut people out. Justin (VanSchaick, defensive coordinator) does a great job with those kids. He gets them ready to play every week and makes it about something, and they respond."
Warren built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on sophomore quarterback Phil Hird's 37-yard touchdown pass to DelaCruz and Martin Walker Jr.'s 3-yard TD run. Walker (31 carries, 94 yards) scored 1 play after junior defensive end Seamus Mellican recovered a fumble.
Warren's defense did the rest.
Stevenson (6-2, 4-2) manufactured only one major threat offensively, and that came in the third quarter when JM Etienne, who had minus-3 yards rushing on 4 carries in the first half, busted off a 50-yard run to the Warren 9. But the Blue Devils' defense held.
Brian Mohry and McNeal had back-to-back stops for no gain, before Patriots quarterback Cole Okmin threw incomplete on third down. A Warren penalty gave Stevenson another chance, but a swarming defense stopped Okmin at the 2.
"Three-man pursuit," DelaCruz said. "In practice, we have to pursue to the ball with only three people. Everybody has to pursue to the ball and touch the hip. If we don't pursue the ball, we either miss a tackle or (the ball carrier) is going to get loose."
"We want to stop you (on the goal line)," McNeal said. "We don't even want you to kick the ball (field goal)."
Two Stevenson possessions later, McNeal provided another insurance TD. He burst through the line, popped the ball loose from Okmin, picked up the fumble and ran 48 yards to the end zone with 6:31 left in the fourth.
For Warren, which has allowed only 16 points in its seven games since giving up 31 in a season-opening loss to Barrington, it was its fourth defensive TD this season.
"We practice it all the time," McNeal said. "When you see boot, just go and play as hard as you can. I hit the running back and tried to mash his hand. Then I hit the ball and I saw it (on the ground) and I freaked out for a second. Then I took off."
The Blue Devils have been doing that for a while.