Schaumburg tops 400-yard rushing mark in win against Wheeling
Losing your first game of the year, no matter the final score, doesn't automatically eliminate you from having a winning season, nor does end any divisional title or postseason possibilities.
Take, for example, both Schaumburg and Wheeling. Each had dropped its Week 1 contest by the furthest extremes that one could endure in a loss.
One had fallen in an overtime home loss, while the other was tagged with a blowout setback.
But lifting their collective spirits was a review of their past histories showed each program had attained some of its greater successes despite losing that opening contest.
Three of the Saxons' most memorable campaigns started out with a loss.
•1974: MSL Super Bowl title and a berth in the first IHSA state playoffs.
•1985: MSL South title and a Class 6A quarterfinal appearance.
•1999: MSL West title and a Class 6A championship game berth.
On the flip side, two of Wheeling's most recent campaigns also started in similar fashion.
•2015: MSL East co-championship
•2016: Class 6A playoff bid.
With that in hand, it would be the host Saxons taking advantage of scoring 4 touchdowns in its first 5 possessions to hold off the visiting Wildcats 55-28 at Gary Scholz Stadium in a Mid-Suburban crossover Friday night.
"I liked our intensity the first 12 minutes," Schaumburg head coach Mark Stilling said.
"We came out the way we wanted to play."
That level of intensity got things going for the Saxons (1-1) on their first play from scrimmage as seniors Luke Jessie and Shamaree Brown (60 yards) hooked up on a flanker screen that took 19 seconds to successfully complete for a 7-0 advantage.
Next, after the Saxon defense forced Wheeling on a 3-and-out, Jessie (6 of 14, 130 yards) engineered an 8-play, 65-yard scoring drive that he finished when he found junior tailback A.J. Prowell in the end zone from 22 yards out at the 7:53 mark of the first to extend the home team's lead to 14-0. Prowell's sophomore teammate Takumi Fred (14 carries, 142 yards) then followed that score on Schaumburg's third offensive series when he broke through the Wildcat defense on a 40-yard dash to pay dirt, making it 21-0 with 3:28 left in the opening quarter.
Wheeling (0-2) got on the scoreboard for the first time on the first of quarterback Austin Hembd's two 13-yard TD runs in the closing seconds of the first stanza to close the gap to 21-7. Enter Schaumburg's Mike DiGioia, who began to make his impact on the game.
DiGioia began by taking over the Saxons next scoring drive, carrying the ball 4 times for 60 yards with the last one finding the end zone from 7 yards out, giving them a 28-7 edge with 8:54 remaining until halftime.
The Wildcats would not quite yet go away as Hembd (17 of 32, 214 yards) connected with Danny Provost from 36 yards to cut the deficit to 28-14 with 40 seconds left in the second.
After DiGioia's second touchdown run (13 yards) on Schaumburg's opening possession of the second half expanded the Saxon lead to 34-14, Hembd would pilot an 11-play drive that culminated in his second touchdown toss to Jon Mitrol from 8 yards out that pulled them within 13 (34-21) with 6:15 left in the third.
The Wildcats would get no closer than that. A 6-yard Brown run followed by a 3- yard run from backup quarterback Kyle Jessie made it 48-21 with 8:06 left.
Prowell closed out the night's scoring with a 70-yard kickoff return that came after Hembd's second 13-yard touchdown run with 4:37 remaining.
In total, Schaumburg outgained the Wildcats 556-310 with 415 of those yards coming on the ground.
DiGioia, who had 219 of those yards (on 19 rushes), credited the offensive line of Derek Kulak, Malik Moore, Jeremy Serio, Dane McMahon, Allen Okanovic and Jose Parra for paving the way toward their offensive success.
"It all comes from the offensive line," DiGioia said. "They're great players."
DiGioia, a third-year varsity letterman, also remains aware that one win does not make a season.
"We gained some momentum here, but we need to keep pushing," he concluded.