Wheaton Academy on wrong side of fine line
It can be a fine line between touchdown and incompletion, between getting off the football field on third down and not.
Wheaton Academy butted up against that line Thursday night against Bishop McNamara.
Right with the 2018 Class 4A runner-up physically and often inches away from executing big plays, on homecoming the Warriors fell 28-7 to Bishop McNamara in West Chicago.
"It's little things, right, it's those little margins that make for a victory or a loss," said Warriors coach Brad Thornton. "They did the little things, they got some breaks that went their way and we just didn't do what we needed to do in the moments that we needed to. Frustrating but still proud of the effort that our guys put in."
Things like allowing a 34-yard pass play on third-and-6, leading to Owen Jackson's 5-yard touchdown run on the first series for Bishop McNamara (3-3, 2-2 Metro Suburban Blue).
Like Warriors quarterback David Dorn's 19-yard pass into the end zone, a jump ball that could have been a second-quarter touchdown. Instead Brayden Smith intercepted for the Fightin' Irish.
Or Jackson's second-quarter fumble at the goal line. Instead of Wheaton Academy (3-3, 0-2) recovering, the ball bounced right to McNamara tight end Brandon Courtney for the touchdown. Claudia Dolliger, a strong kicker, gave the Irish a 21-0 halftime lead.
In fact, hall of fame Irish coach Rich Zinanni delivered somewhat of a mixed postgame message. But after two straight losses in 31 total seconds, he'll take the win.
"I want to make sure they know that we're not the greatest team in the world right now," said the 45-year coach. "We won a football game, but we've got a lot of work to do."
Bishop McNamara made it 28-0 on its first series of the third quarter -- one play after recovering its own fumble -- on a 47-yard run by Jackson.
On two of its next three series Wheaton Academy just missed connecting on touchdown passes, one from 13 yards out, the other from 43.
"It was just missed opportunities, some missed throws, dropped footballs, and then we just couldn't get off the field on third down," Dorn said. "We had a good week of practice, I think we just shot ourselves in the foot a lot of plays and that was kind of where we fell short."
The Warriors scored with 57 seconds left when Shane Baumgarten, at quarterback in his second game back from injury, scored on a 7-yard run. Lars Cassel added the kick.
"We just fought every play," said linebacker Trevor Donna, who made 6 tackles for loss and batted a pass that Jared Samuelson intercepted.
"We're going to come out here," he said, "work hard, try and get that 6-3 playoff spot. It's a challenge. Nothing's impossible."
The sportsmanship of both teams was impressive. Many times a player planted an opponent into the turf, then extended a hand to help him back up.