Minooka surprises York in first round
Senior Trevor Hudak contributed big plays often and just about everywhere for the Minooka football team in Friday's Class 8A playoff opener at York.
Hudak played receiver, running back, outside linebacker, kicker and punter.
"I kind of just do everything," Hudak said. "I just want to put my heart out for my brothers because I really care about these guys. They're the best group of guys I've played with and I don't want to play with anyone else."
Hudak scored a touchdown, kicked a field goal and collected two interceptions that helped No. 25 seed Minooka beat the No. 8-seeded Dukes 16-13 in a steady rain at Clarence D. East Field in Elmhurst.
Perhaps Hudak's sweetest play was the interception at the 2-yard line with 56 seconds left that all but sealed Minooka's third straight victory by 6 points or fewer and third victory over a playoff qualifier.
"(That interception) felt good but I was still like it's not over. It just felt amazing. I'll never forget that," Hudak said.
"(Our 5-4 record) doesn't really represent us. I think we're way better. Our coach (Matt Harding) said we're seven plays away from being 8-1 and I believe in that and I believe in our team. We just really keep that chip on our shoulders. Everyone thinks we're the underdogs but we're really not. We're here to play our hearts out."
The Dukes trailed 10-0 at halftime after being limited to 17 offensive plays but nearly rallied.
York closed to 16-13 with 11:58 left, and when Hudak missed a 25-yard field goal with 2:10 left, York moved from its 20 to the Minooka 30 on back-to-back 20-yard pass plays from quarterback Matt Vezza to Jack Wagner.
Enter Hudak on the next play to stop the threat.
York was making its first playoff appearance since 2011. This is the first graduating class for coach Mike Fitzgerald, who took over in 2018.
"If you do things the right way, you leave a lasting impact and that's what these guys have done," Fitzgerald said. "These seniors really bought into everything. It's sad to see it come to the end but I told them it doesn't end here. We're more than a football team. We're a family."
Minooka's opening drive set the tone. Although held to Hudak's 20-yard field goal, the drive consumed 7:48 and continued thanks to a fourth-down conversion at the 21. The Minooka defense then saw Will DeBold make a huge stop when York went for it on fourth-and-2 at the 32.
"We're battle tested. We've had three tight games in a row," Harding said. "That was a challenge to our offense. We put together four quarters here of physicality. Keeping their potent offense off the field was huge."
Hudak's 1-yard TD run in the second quarter followed a third-and-10 completion to the 19 from quarterback Gavin Dooley to Ethan Murphy, who followed with 8- and 4-yard runs.
"They did a great job, had a good game plan, controlling the ball, controlling the clock. If we got a few more stops, I felt that we were flipping the field but we weren't finishing our drives," Fitzgerald said.
Then York opened the second half with an impressive 14-play, 91-yard TD drive with Vezza scoring from the 1.
When Minooka responded with a 15-yard TD pass from Dooley to a wide-open Murphy on fourth-and-3 -- and after timeouts by both teams -- Vezza scored again. This 1-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter came three plays after Mark Schneider took a deflected pass down the right sideline and used a Wagner block to scamper 59 yards to the 5.
This was only the third time this season an opponent scored more than 10 points against the Dukes.
"When I came here as a freshman, the culture of York football was bad. Losing season after losing season," York senior defensive lineman Sam Varzino said.
"I can't help but say we would not be here without Coach Fitz, any of our coaches. The players, we believe. I can't even explain how much this hurts, but I know that in the future years, York is just going to get better and better and eventually be one of the best teams in the state."