Unbeaten Rolling Meadows punches playoff ticket with win over Elk Grove
In its first 28 seasons of competition from its debut year in 1972 until 1999, only three Rolling Meadows squads had qualified for the state playoffs: 1986, 1990 and 1999.
In its 41-14 win at Elk Grove Friday night, Rolling Meadows clinched its ninth-straight postseason berth and 17th in the last 20 seasons.
Moreover, it allowed the reigning MSL East Champions (6-0, 2-0) to keep pace with Hersey, which bested Prospect Friday, and remain tied atop the division.
"To me its always about the kids. You have to have players to win football games," a reflective Mustangs coach Matt Mishler said. "We have been fortunate to have goals coming into the program, and I have a staff that's really good at developing those guys."
The visitors rolled through the first half amassing 316 of its 345 yards of total offense. Chris Divito scored Rolling Meadows' first two touchdowns on the ground from 4 and 15 yards out, and the combination of Carson Schiller and Daniel Sobkowicz hooked up for the first of their two touchdowns from 7 yards out to put the Mustangs up 20-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Defense set the tone for Meadows in the second as junior cornerback Michael Radon snuffed out the lone Grenadier threat of the half when he picked off Charlie Janczak in the end zone with 7:50 left before halftime, nullifying a 10-play, 65-yard drive.
The Mustangs took advantage of that pick by going on an 8-play, 80-yard drive that junior Noah Wilson ended with a 6-yard jaunt and a 27-0 lead with 4:32 to go in the second.
On Elk Grove's subsequent series, a pair of seniors teamed up for the Mustangs' fifth touchdown. Linebacker Matt Walas forced a fumble that safety Knife Oseni scooped up at the Grens' 31 and took it in to make it 34-0 at the 3:40 mark of the second quarter.
Oseni paid homage to Walas' early arrival that led to his score.
"I have to give credit to Matt on that one," Oseni said. "He came in and lit up the quarterback. I was blessed to be in the right position at the right time."
The second Schiller-Sobkowicz scoring strike (11 yards) with 42 ticks left in the half triggered the running clock for the second half with Rolling Meadows leading 41-0 at the break.
Schiller (13-for-15, 157 yards) cited his team's chip-on-the-shoulder mentality as the catalyst for its success.
"We want to prove we're a good football team, day in, day out," he said. "We don't care who we're facing. We want to step on teams early."
Elk Grove (1-5, 0-2) got on the Haskell Stadium scoreboard twice in the final period when Janczak found Mark Matos (5 receptions, 175 yards) on an 80-yard bomb on the quarter's first snap. Ian Ridge (11 carries, 77 yards) scored on a 22-yard run with 6 minutes to play.
Mishler praised a short-handed Grenadier squad that had 16 players standing on the sidelines in street clothes due to injury, including quarterback Joey Gaskill, who was hurt in last week's loss to Prospect.
"I thought they had some pieces that could hurt us," Mishler said. "Obviously, they're banged up, but you know Miles (Elk Grove coach Osei) does a really good job with them and they're going to fight and play hard."