Defense stellar again as Warren moves to semifinals
Warren has counted on its defense all season to make plays.
On Saturday in the Class 8A quarterfinals in Bolingbrook, it was a full out lean.
With its offense struggling, the Warren defense rose to the rescue. The Blue Devils' defense smothered Bolingbrook's high-speed offense as Warren sacked the Raiders 18-6.
The win moved Warren (12-0) into the state semifinals for the first time in school history. The fourth-seeded Blue Devils will host 24th-seeded Brother Rice, which beat Minooka 38-21, next weekend.
That game will be a rematch of last year's quarterfinal game which was won by Brother Rice. The date and time will be officially announced on Monday.
Warren coach Bryan McNulty said his team is excited about advancing to the semifinals.
"We had a feeling we had something special going on and we are really happy where we are at right now," McNulty said."
Led by Willis Singleton, Juan De la Cruz, Malachi McNeal, Tommy Matheson, Seamus Millican, Markova Sanchez and Marc Davilla, the Warren defense limited the Raiders to 13 yards rushing and 78 yards of total offense. The Devils also had 7 sacks and harassed Bolingbrook quarterback Devyn Suggs the entire game.
"When the attention comes to me, other people make the plays," said Singleton, who was double-teamed throughout the game.
"There are a lot of other great people on our team and they work just as hard as I do. We work together and we got the job done. We are a family. When one side of the ball is down, the other side has to pick them up."
With Singleton getting extra attention, it opened up the field for McNeal and Matheson, who each had 2½ sacks.
"This is what I shoot for," said McNeal, who had a fumble recovery and a strip sack that set up a scoop and score for Davilla.
"I don't take this as my best game. It is really thanks to my teammates and especially JR (Singleton). They soak up so much time blocking him that I am kind of the forgotten man. I showed up when I had the chance."
Matheson said the pressure on the quarterback was the key to the Warren defense.
"We had a lot of sacks and a lot of pressure on the quarterback," Matheson said. "We had to lean on the defense to get it done today. "
Warren needed that kind of defensive performance with its offense managing just 145 yards. The Blue Devils did get 100 rushing yards from Derrick McLaughlin, who carried the ball 24 times.
"Bolingbrook is an excellent defensive team and they have not given up a ton of points this year," McLaughlin said. "We knew we were going to have a tough game on our hands."
Warren had an opportunity to open up a big lead in the first half. The Devils recovered a pair of fumbled punts inside the Bolingbrook 15-yard line. But penalties stymied the offense and all the Blue Devils had to show for it was a 35-yard field goal from Adam Saul.
Warren's defense was able to bail things out for the Blue Devils.
McNeal and Matheson put heavy pressure on Suggs at the Raider 2-yard line, forcing Suggs to throw the ball away. After an intentional grounding call, Bolingbrook was forced to punt from its own 1 and opted to take a safety to make it 5-0 midway through the second quarter.
After the free kick, Warren came up with its biggest offensive play of the game when Trinate Jacobs connected with Christian Phillips on a 40-yard pass to the Raider 4-yard line. McLaughlin crashed over from there on the next play. The conversion run faulted and Warren led 11-0 with 2:16 left in the first half.
The defense made another statement in the third quarter when McNeal sacked Suggs and forced a fumble. Davilla picked the ball off the black turf and sped 44 yards for the touchdown and an 18-0 lead with 7:24 left in the third quarter.
"Nothing could be better," Davilla said. "My teammates put me in a good position. The ball was just bouncing around and I just had to pick it up and had to take it back."
Bolingbrook (8-4) was able to avoid the shutout after the Raiders hit a short field after a nice punt return put the ball at the Warren 20. Two plays later, Bolingbrook scored on a halfback option pass from Antonio King to Trevor Borland on a 12-yard touchdown pass to make it 18-6 with 2:59 left in the third quarter.
Bolingbrook had an opportunity to get closer, but Noah Galuska blocked a field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Warren's defense was able to turn Bolingbrook away on two more occasions. The Blue Devil offense, which had failed to convert a first down since late in the second quarter, was then able to put the game away with a trio of first downs to help the Blue Devils run out the clock.