Riverside-Brookfield holds back Wheaton Academy
Wheaton Academy suffered an agonizing 20-17 defeat to playoff-bound Riverside-Brookfield in Metro Suburban Blue action Friday night in West Chicago.
Wheaton Academy (4-4, 1-4) has a good chance at 5-4 for a fourth playoff trip in six seasons by beating Aurora Christian (4-4, 1-4) next week. The Warriors would finish with 39 or 40 playoff points, and last year's playoff cut for 5-4 teams was 38.
"Aurora Christian's a great team. They've got a lot of playmakers, a good line," Kowalczyk said. "It's going to be a fun challenge, just time to get back to the grindstone Monday in full pads and be ready to try and earn our way into the playoffs."
The Warriors nearly took care of business against R-B (6-2, 3-2) but basically ran out of time.
The final drive from their 24-yard with 1:34 left and no timeouts reached the R-B 36 with 16 seconds before consecutive penalties.
Facing fourth-and-8 from the 42, a sack and lost fumble occurred as time expired.
"It's a playoff game next week," Wheaton Academy coach Brad Thornton said. "I told (our players) at the end I'm thankful that's it's not ending here. We've got one more shot."
Senior transfer Jayson Rucker scored both of the Warriors' touchdowns. His spectacular one-handed diving catch in the end zone put the Warriors ahead 17-13 in the third quarter.
But the Bulldogs answered with a 67-yard TD drive with five seconds left in the third quarter for the game's final scoring. The Warriors' first fourth-quarter drive then reached the R-B 33-yard line before a lost fumble at the 24.
Rucker completed the Warriors' 67-yard opening drive with a 27-yard TD run after a 32-yard pass from quarterback David Dorn to Alejandro Ventimilla on third-and 13.
The Bulldogs' scores accounted for 121 of their 274 total yards. They were a 57-yard TD pass from quarterback Matt Torres to sophomore Owen Murphy and TD runs of 43 and 21 yards by seniors Chris Doherty and Luke Gentile, respectively. Both rushers appeared to be tackled or stopped but then cut back and eventually broke free.
"Coming into this game we knew it was going to be close and come down to little things, disciplined football and execution. They had disciplined football and executed and we did not when we needed to," Thornton said.
"That's why it's frustrating walking off the field because it felt like it could have gone either way and it came down to little stuff. Our guys are going to be frustrated watching the film because there were opportunities and we just couldn't capitalize."
After a one-year absence from the playoffs, the Bulldogs clinched their fifth trip in sixth seasons.
Murphy hurt the Warriors even more at quarterback when he replaced an injured Torres during R-B's final drive with 8:32 remaining.
With about seven minutes left Murphy completed a huge third-and-6 pass and later kept the ball for third- and fourth-down conversion runs that consumed another five minutes.
"I'm really proud of the kids and the way they battled through adversity tonight. It was a really impressive and very inspiring performance," R-B coach Brendan Curtin said.
"No question about (having to earn it). Tough defense, a lot of fast football players, hats off to Wheaton Academy. They played a great game."