Willowbrook calls audible in game plan, beats Whitney Young

By Michal Dwojak
Shaw Media
Updated 10/29/2021 10:50 PM

Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth and the Warriors learned pretty quickly they had to change their game plan in their opening playoff matchup on Friday night.

With the rain pouring, the wind blowing and the grass field at Rockne Stadium progressively getting worse by the second early on the first drive of the game, Hildreth changed the offense knowing what the Warriors normally do wasn't going to help them advance.


That change worked just fine. Willowbrook took its first-round Class 7A game against Whitney Young 44-0.

"I thought these guys came out in unique conditions in rain and it's been raining here for days," Hildreth said. "They just played really hard and created situations to move the football early before the field got worse."

The Warriors staff quickly realized that it couldn't afford to snap directly to the quarterback and have him hand the ball off to a runner. Luckily, the coaches had worked on a different strategy when they saw what the forecast would be and that they would play on grass.

Joey Tumilty started taking direct snaps, something that he had some experience with earlier in the season. Once he took control, he either ran with the ball or handed it off to a runner, helping Willowbrook score on its first drive. The team went 80 yards, scoring on a 5-yard run from Evan Stubblefield.

Whitney Young fumbled on the next kickoff and Willowbrook scored on one play, a 20-yard run from Tumilty with just over six minutes left in the first quarter.

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The duo scored three more touchdowns and Willowbrook finished with 282 yards of offense, never attempting a pass.

"It was a fun game, playing in the mud," Tumilty said. "My line gave me a big push tonight to get to my spots and get in my lanes."

Nick Mabutas added some spark from the defense in the second quarter when he intercepted a pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown. The Warriors defense limited the Whitney Young defense to 71 total yards, never letting the Dolphins get into any groove.

"It couldn't have gone worse for us," Whitney Young coach Dan Finger said. "We had a decent week of practice, but we didn't come to the stage set. It's been awhile since we were in a game like this. It's the first playoff game for everyone in our program, so definitely a learning experience."

Whitney Young will move on to the Chicago Public School playoffs while Willowbrook advances to the second round of the Class 7A bracket to play Moline.

Heading into the season, Willowbrook players were motivated because of all the uncertainty the pandemic placed on whether they would get a chance to play in the postseason. Now that they're here, they're going to take advantage of the moment and try to make it last as long as possible.

"We'll look at the film and try to get as much out of this as we can," Hildreth said. "We get one week together, one more week with this group of guys and that's all you do, worry about that and do everything we can to get in a spot to do it again one more week and go from there."

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