Fremd defeats Conant to win MSL West title
It is hip to be Mid-Suburban West champions.
Fremd's Jack Hipchen came up with a blocked extra point, a touchdown reception and an interception return for a touchdown to lead Fremd to a 20-12 win over Conant Friday in Hoffman Estates.
The win clinched the MSL West title outright for Fremd (6-2, 4-0), which tied Conant for the conference title last season. It was first time that Fremd had won the conference outright since 2009.
Fremd coach Lou Sponsel wasn't ready to celebrate until the regular season is completed.
"We are not talking about that yet," he said. "When game 9 is done we will say that."
Despite the demure celebration, Sponsel and Fremd were ecstatic with their win over Conant.
"We faced adversity on all fronts tonight," Sponsel said. "And the kids stayed there. We talked about one fight at time, and don't panic."
Fremd didn't panic when Conant (6-2, 2-2) ran off the final 8:59 of the first quarter, driving the ball to the Fremd 5-yard line.
On the first play of the second quarter, Malik Frederick busted over the left side to put Conant up 6-0 to complete a 17-play scoring drive.
That's when Hipchen stepped up to block the conversion kick by flying in from the left side, keeping the score at 6-0.
Fremd put together a scoring drove midway through the second quarter. The Vikings went 77 yards on 10 plays. Hipchen capped the drive, catching a 5-yard pass across the middle and outrunning Conant to the corner for a 19-yard touchdown. A Connor Cox conversion kick put the Viking up 7-6 at the half.
Conant was not able to put together one of its long scoring drives in the second half.
"They tweaked just enough what they did on film," Sponsel said. "In the first half, they played faster than we did. We challenged our kids and made some minor adjustments and went back to the techniques we talked about."
Even with those adjustments, Conant was still able to pull in front. The Cougars' Dom Maiorello recovered a fumble at the Fremd 24. Four plays later, Giuseppe Dugo scored on a 7-yard run to make it 12-7. Conant attempted a two-point conversion run that was stopped.
Fremd then took a page out of the Conant playbook and put together a scoring drive in the final period.
The Vikings went 57 yards on 15 plays. They converted a pair of third-down plays and a fourth-down play to keep the drive alive with Saxe scoring on a 2-yard run with 3:22 to play to make it 13-12. The conversion pass failed and Fremd still led by a point.
The Fremd defense, led by Hipchen. Chris Skaria, Jason Haas, Trey Castella, Jack Walsh and Will Kristo, stuffed Conant on the first three plays. On fourth down, Conant, attempting only its second pass of the game, was picked off by Hipchen, who returned it 32 yards for a touchdown and a 20-13 lead with just over 90 seconds remaining
"We came in prepared for the game," said Hipchen, who had 8 receptions for 82 yards. "We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. All week we had a great scout team. It was all discipline."
Conant had a final opportunity form its own 39, but the Cougars failed to convert on fourth down.
"We played our hearts out," Skaria said. "Our scout team prepared us so well. There has never been a week when we have been prepared so well.
Conant coach Bryan Stortz said uncharacteristic penalties hurt the Cougars.
"We had three drives where we had three key penalties that backed up to first and 20," Stortz said. "We're not the type of offense that is good at those situations. Our kids played hard, penalties happen."