Rolling Meadows' defense dominant in quarterfinal win over WW South
The second half couldn't have started much worse for Rolling Meadows.
But it led to a defining moment.
With another dominant defensive effort and some timely offense, the Mustangs advanced to the Class 7A semifinals with Saturday's 20-3 football victory at Wheaton Warrenville South.
Third-seeded Rolling Meadows (12-0), in the semifinals for the first time since 2004, can reach the final for the first time if the host Mustangs beat No. 2 Nazareth (12-0), a 38-24 winner over Batavia, next week.
"It feels great because we haven't been to the semifinals in a while," said Mustangs receiver Jordan Wiles, who had 4 catches for 82 yards. "Just to have this group make it this far is incredible."
Leading 13-3 at halftime, Rolling Meadows fumbled deep in its territory on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. The Mustangs' defense held, bolstered by three sacks.
The offense responded with an 8-play, 82-yard drive capped by Carson Schiller's 37-yard touchdown pass to Wiles. With a 20-3 lead and half the third quarter gone, the Mustangs thwarted any momentum No. 22 WW South (8-4) might have had.
Rolling Meadows' defense notched 8 sacks, got interceptions from Dave Zieba and Nife Oseni and had one gigantic fumble recovery from Nicholaus Greazel.
"I want offenses to be scared of us," said two-way lineman Nate Pedraza, committed to Ball State. "Mustang football is known for defense. Of course the offense is a huge part of the team. But the defense sets the tone for us. That's what I like about our team."
Rolling Meadows dominated possession in the first half but managed just a pair of field goals from Danny Fallon, who also tagged a 63-yard punt. The Mustangs scored 10 second-quarter points off turnovers -- and without a first down -- extending their lead to 13-0 when a fumbled punt snap in the end zone led to Greazel's recovery and a touchdown.
"It just felt like we were at a standstill the entire game," said Tigers linebacker Will Cassin, who forced the third-quarter fumble. "Quarterfinals two years in a row, it's an incredible experience. Nobody knew who we were and nobody thought we could do anything, so it's great to prove them wrong."
WW South's defense allowed 213 yards but the offense struggled to sustain drives. Parker Brown threw for 135 yards while Jake Arthurs rushed for 47. Michigan State-bound kicker Jack Olsen's 38-yard field goal closed the first half.
"We didn't play our best game today," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch. "It was a good season from these guys. I'm not sure anyone expected this much from this group."
The Mustangs surely will be considered underdogs against Nazareth, the defending 7A champions.
It's a role Rolling Meadows has embraced.
"They've been underdogs all year," said Mustangs coach Matt Mishler. "Nobody's talked about them but it's just a group of guys that loves playing football."