Willowbrook ends Maine West's big season
Willowbrook senior C.J. Harris touched the football only six times Saturday, but a lot of good things happened when he got his hands on it.
Harris came up with three big plays in a game that was full of them. He caught a touchdown pass, scored another touchdown by recovering a fumble in the end zone and made the game-clinching interception as the host Warriors knocked off Maine West 36-26 in a Class 7A second-round game in Villa Park.
Willowbrook (11-0) tied the school record for victories and advanced to the state quarterfinals for the third straight year while ending Maine West's best season. Willowbrook will face defending state champion Batavia at Batavia next week.
"I had a bigger role today in the absence of a couple of my teammates, so I had to step up," Harris said. "On defense Coach (Nick Hildreth) told us they're going to take shots, so I've got to be ready for that pass."
Harris picked off Maine West at the goal line and brought it out to the 7 with 7:26 left in the fourth quarter. That sealed the outcome of a game that saw touchdowns scored on a kickoff return, punt return, fumble return, interception return and 64-yard reverse in addition to Harris' fumble recovery in the end zone, which was perhaps the most unusual play of the game.
Maine West (9-2) led twice, the first after Ely Grimmer's 64-yard touchdown run on his only carry, and 14-9 following a 1-yard run by Jake Bellizzi.
On the ensuing possession Willowbrook faced fourth-and-4 at the Maine West 37. Sam Tumilty completed a short pass to his brother Scott, who raced up the left side before fumbling at the 1. The ball popped into the end zone, where Harris caught up to it about a yard from the sideline.
That gave Willowbrook a 15-14 lead with 2:44 left in the first half and the Warriors never trailed again.
"When I recovered that fumble, it was just me being aware of the ball," said Harris, who closed the scoring by hauling in a 21-yard TD pass from Sam Tumilty.
Scott Tumilty wasn't shocked to see Harris bail him out.
"It's nothing new for him," he said. "He puts in the work just like every one of us. I'm not surprised he came out and balled out this week."
The Tumilty brothers, as usual, also made a big impact. Sam threw for 132 yards and rushed for a game-high 95 yards and 28 carries. Scott returned an interception 95 yards early in the third quarter to extend the lead to 22-14.
"Going into halftime we were only up 1," Scott Tumilty said. "The coaches got on us a little and I think we came out with a little more fire, a little more chip on our shoulder.
"We came out with some big hits, some big plays, some big interceptions."
Maine West made some big plays, too, but Willowbrook seemed to have an answer for each one.
Bellizzi recovered a fumble and raced 75 yards for a touchdown to pull the visitors within 22-20, only to see Willowbrook's DeAndre Holliday return the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score. Maine West's David Jackson returned a punt 57 yards for a touchdown to close the scoring with 4:25 remaining.
"I think our guys played well, but we didn't play well enough to win," said Maine West coach Jason Kradman, whose team earned the first playoff win in program history last week. "They made big plays when they had to make them and we made some critical mistakes at some critical moments that cost us points.
"At the end of the day, they just made more plays than us."