Rolling Meadows Mustangs earn date in quarterfinals
Rolling Meadows' Chris Divito is like that Christmas present that is bought early and put away until the big day.
Divito was unwrapped and then unleashed, scoring 3 touchdowns as the Mustangs bounced Prospect 26-14 Friday in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs in Rolling Meadows,
The Mustangs (11-0) will play next weekend at the winner of Saturday's matchup between Wheaton Warrenville South and Downers Grove North.
Divito, who began the season as the Mustangs' No. 1 running back, had been just playing linebacker while Meadows leaned more on Charlie Schmidt and Noah Wilson. That situation didn't bother Divito at all.
"They have been having me focus more on defense," Said Divito, who rushed for 136 yards on 20 carries and caught 2 passes for 26 yards.
"I have always preferred defense. This is really been my first year of playing offense. Ever since youth I played 'D' only."
Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler decided to go with the bruising 5-foot-10 Divito to start Friday's game. And on a night where the weather felt more like Christmas, it was a huge present for the Mustangs.
"He is a two-way player for us," Mishler said. "Once Charlie and Noah kind of emerged for us, we knew could play Chris on the defensive side. We let Chris get the first couple series of each half. And we knew we were going to lean on him more at the end of the season like we did tonight."
Divito made his coach look real good as he powered over Prospect on the Mustangs' first series. He carried the ball 3 times for 28 yards, then caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Carson Schiller to put Meadows up 7-0.
Divito and the Mustangs were right back at it on their next possession. This time he busted off a 51-yard run on the first play and then followed with an 8-yard scoring burst and Meadows was up 14-0 just over 5 minutes into the game.
"My senior year I got a chance to start," Divito said. "My linemen opened some huge holes and I got a chance to prove myself."
Prospect (8-3), which surrendered three quick scores in its game with Rolling Meadows a month ago, pulled things together this time.
The Knights' defense, led by Adam Mekky, Zach Zei, Ryan Traviola and Adam Ryerson stiffened. They were able to force a pair of turnovers and keep Prospect in the game.
Prospect's offense, which struggled most of the evening to put together scoring drives, was able to capitalize on a pair of big plays.
Noah Marx was able to get behind the Meadows defense after a defender fell down. Gary Moeller then lofted a perfectly thrown ball that Marx tuned into an 80-yard touchdown play to cut the lead to 14-7 just before the end of the first quarter.
It remained that way until late in the third quarter when the Knights, who were still struggling on offense, went into their playbook. Moeller threw a backward pass to Brian Doherty, who then tossed a wobbly pass to Marx, who turned it into a 60-yard touchdown and the game was tied 14-14 with 2:54 left in the third quarter.
The Meadows defense barely allowed anything after that. Led by Nate Pedraza, Jose Aleman, Mick Lawlor, Divito and Sean Nolan, they would allow Prospect to convert just 4 first downs for the game.
"Teams like to double team us up front and that leaves gaps for other players," Pedraza said. "There was a lot of three and outs. I was happy and impressed with our defense."
The Mustang offense finally got back in gear.
Running behind Nick Tannhauser, Jose Aleman, Anthony Lara, Tommy Schell, Michael Bogdanovski and Pedraza, Divito, Schmidt (16 carries, 73 yards) and the Mustangs were able to rush for 214 yards.
"We went into the game with the mentality that we needed to run the ball," Tannhauser said. "We have been working on it every week and talking on how the run game is really important. Divito really helped. Especially when he didn't go down when he was hit."
After a pair of receptions by Jordan Miles, including a 36-yarder, Meadows found itself at the Prospect 8. Three plays later, Divito crashed over from the 3 to make it 20-14 with 6:40 to play.
Divito then showed his defensive chops, recovering a Prospect fumble at the Knights' 33. Meadows methodically move the ball the distance, with Schmidt scoring on a 1-yard plunge with 2:02 to play to put the game away.
"I was a little uneasy playing them again because I know how well coached they are," Mishler said of the Knights. "I told our kids after the game that they never cease to amaze me with the amount of adversity they face within the games. We had every reason to fold. We ended up seizing back the momentum and getting it done."
Prospect coach Dan DeBeouf, whose team qualified for the playoffs for the second year in his tenure as head coach, said he likes the progress his program is making.
"We took the next step," DeBeouf said. "We thought we could compete in this game and I thought we did. I am super proud of our seniors and it will be back to work for next season."