DeMarco, St. Charles North run over Normal Community
NORMAL -- It was an emotional roller coaster at the DeMarco house this week.
On Monday, Nick DeMarco, a sophomore, gave a verbal commitment to play baseball at Notre Dame. Throughout the week with the football team, Sam DeMarco, a senior and top running back for much of the season, struggled to get his injured knee to cooperate and was not able to play in a Class 7A first-round playoff game at Normal Community High School.
Nick took the roller coaster back to the top Saturday afternoon by pounding the ninth-ranked Ironmen with a career-best 293 yards rushing and two touchdowns to lead the North Stars to a 44-29 victory.
"It was a busy week, but a great week," said Nick, who had second-half touchdown runs of 78 and 22 yards to send North into a second-round matchup against undefeated Rolling Meadows next weekend. "The whole bus ride down here we weren't sure if he (Sam) was going to play. But we talked all week and studied reads and watched film together. He cares about me like that."
Still stinging from losses that came on the final play in the final two weeks of the regular season, the North Stars (7-3) overcame a funky mental state that they were snake bit.
"It's been hard to keep everyone from thinking 'What if, what if,'" he said. "It takes wins like this to get over that hump again. We constantly want to be focused on being in the moment."
The 22nd-seeded North Stars took a 16-0 lead to halftime, holding the Ironmen to just 85 first-half yards while taking advantage of penalties in all three first-half scoring drives. One was a personal foul for a late hit after what was a third-down stop.
After a blocked punt that gave NCHS its best scoring chance, St. Charles North's defense pushed the Ironmen back 12 yards and forced a turnover on downs.
Normal Community coach Jason Drengwitz knew missing that opportunity hurt. And he knew his team had its hands full with the North Stars.
"Our first two plays down there we go backward," said Drengwitz. "That was how it went all day. We treated them with the respect they were due based on the conference they play in and the players they have. They just executed and played better than us."
Junior quarterback Kyler Brown, also filling in for an injured brother, completed 9 of 17 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
He threw two in the first half to senior Alec Kritta and a second-half hookup to Minnesota recruit Tyler Nubin. Kritta finished with five catches and 121 yards.
St. Charles North had responses for Normal all day. After the Ironmen got on the scoreboard on the first drive of the season half to make it 16-8, DeMarco went 78 yards for a touchdown on the next play to make it 23-8.
The Ironmen (8-2) trimmed it to 23-15 on Jake Hilmen's 66-yard TD run, and the North Stars answered with a 12-play drive to make it 30-15 on Nubin's 30-yard leaping grab in the end zone.
"We knew we had a good chance," North Stars coach Rob Pomazak said. "People who know us know we're a good football team, but maybe we are the only ones who aren't surprised we won this game."
Normal senior quarterback Daylen Boddie finished with 112 yards rushing and 134 passing.