Wheaton North repeats victory over Lake Forest
Xander Mueller and Nathan Love were among the Wheaton North football players honored during Senior Recognition Night before Friday's game at Rexilius Field.
During the game they made Lake Forest players feel like it was 2018 all over again.
"We (seniors) were all hyped. We knew last year we beat them so we were coming into this game just fired up," Love said.
The pair haunted the Scouts once again as the Falcons pulled off a 23-7 victory to open the season 2-0 for the second time in three seasons heading into a key DuKane Conference home opener against St. Charles North, last year's state runner-up in Class 7A.
"All of the seniors were pretty hyped up -- the last first game at home so it was pretty exciting," said Mueller, the Northwestern recruit promoted to varsity four games into the 2017 season.
"(Love) had a really good game last year and kicking for us today and being in the (defensive) secondary, it's a little different for him. Last year he was one of the reins on offense and now he's controlling us on defense and doing really well,"
Last year's starting quarterback, Love is now a full-time defensive back and part-time tailback. Love scored on a 1 -- yard touchdown run on the Falcons' first possession and added a 31-yard field goal for a 17-7 halftime lead. In last season's 21-12 victory at Lake Forest, Love had a 1-yard TD run as QB and two field goals last season.
Mueller had an interception Friday and contributed to double-digit tackles as part of another great defensive effort. Mueller had an interception and fumble recovery in the 2018 matchup.
"I read (the 2018 interception) wrong but I jumped up and made the play. I don't know how," Mueller said.
"The defense let up one big play but other than that we just showed up, everyone did their job. We've had a couple of guys come back, but a lot of (new) guys stepping up."
Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski was pleased that the Falcons took the opening kickoff and drove 73 yards in nine plays to score.
Perhaps even more important was the Falcons' TD drive in the second quarter right after the Scouts (1-1) tied the game 7-7 on an 80-yard TD run by sophomore running back Jahari Scott, who broke two tackles in the secondary.
A couple of Wheaton North sophomores put the Falcons ahead 14-7. Quarterback Mark Forcucci connected with Kaiden Libby for a 13-yard TD strike.
"That was huge. That was the momentum shifter," Mueller said.
"When you score on the first possession, that means that you've prepared well. To go down and score right away, that (also) was huge," Wardynski said.
"They tested us. They're a good group and they'll win a lot of games, but I'm proud of the way our kids bounced back when there was some adversity. When they score, you've got to answer. When you turn it over, you've got to get a stop. We did a lot of those things tonight."
The Scouts took the third-quarter kickoff to the 8, but instead of South Carolina recruit Kai Kroeger attempting a 25-yard field goal, they tried a fake. Senior defensive back Braden Aguiar snuffed out the run by holder Richie Hoskins at the 7.
On the second play of the third quarter, Wheaton North junior Ben Bonga made a beautiful diving catch in the near-right corner of the end zone against tight coverage thanks to a perfect throw by Forcucci.
Forcucci passed for 166 yards against a strong Lake Forest defense led by Notre Dame recruit Rylie Mills and junior linebacker Mac Uihlein. Mills was left the game with an apparent right ankle injury 10:35 before halftime after making a tackle.
"You have to give them credit. They came right back at us (at 7-7) and took it away. At that point I'm not sure we had any rhythm at all the rest of the game," Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli said.
Bonga, who had no catches in the opener, had 6 receptions for 104 yards, starting with 34- and 20-yard receptions on the opening drive.
"(On the TD catch) I was like, 'Oh, this is going to be too low. I'm not going to catch this,'" Bonga said. "That was my first thought and then I just kind of dive for it and it's right in my hands. I was super surprised, but I was really happy."