Wheeling moves to 3-1
When Wheeling senior Simon Micula intercepted a Maine West pass in the final two minutes of Friday's night game in Des Plaines, it clinched a 3-1 record for the Wildcats, one of their best starts to a season in years.
"We take this kind of personally," Micula said. "I feel like we shouldn't be celebrating just 3 wins. We should be striving to achieve more at Wheeling. We are trying to flip the program here."
Micula's pick with 1:11 left flipped the game into the win column for Wheeling.
After a couple of kneel-downs, the Wildcats were walking off the field with a 20-10 triumph heading into their Mid-Suburban East opener with Rolling Meadows next week.
"The kids did a great job overcoming some adversity," said Wildcats coach Peter Panagakis. "Our offensive coordinator and his assistant are not here so we had our receivers coach step in and run the offense. It took us a little while to get going but we are not afraid to run the ball, pass the ball and kick field goals."
Wheeling led 14-10 at halftime and the only scoring in the second half was 25- and 38-yard field goals by the Wildcats' Diego Giles, who also caught 3 passes for 65 yards.
Giles' final field goal made it 20-10 with 3:44 left in the game.
Three plays later, Patrick Tinsley had an interception for Wheeling, which then punted four plays later before Micula had the big game-clinching pick.
Maine West (1-3) got on the board first when Gabriel Moreno booted a 25-yard field goal with 7:06 left in the first quarter.
But Wheeling answered right back by marching 66 yards, capped by Anthony Marchetti's 22-yard pass to Giles. Giles' extra-point kick made it 7-3 with 3:35 left in the opening period.
The host Warriors regained the lead with 8:40 left in the second quarter.
That's when Isaac Pittman, running behind linemen Ethan Mattson, William Han, Lucas Burkett, Daniel Owens and Sean Jones, went 2 yards off left tackle to complete a 27-yard drive following Szymon Grum's 21-yard punt return down the west sideline.
Wheeling came back to gain the edge at halftime when it took advantage of a high snap on a Maine West punt. Giles was able to chase down the West punter and Wheeling ended up with the ball on the 7-yard line following a penalty on the play.
It took the Wildcats just one play to reach the end zone when Marchetti found Mikhail Opanasyuk in the middle of the field for a 7-yard touchdown catch and 14-10 lead with 2:20 left in the half.
Marchetti, getting protection from linemen Christian Glowa, Dominik Palka, Marco Mercado, Omar Brito and Ulyesses Robies, completed 15-of-19 passes for 233 yards and rushed for 73 yards on 13 carries.
Maine West backup quarterback Ben Cooper threw for 142 yards while replacing the injured Tommy Delaney.
"The bottom line is that we had some really good opportunities but we were not able to capitalize on them," said Maine West coach George Klupchak, whose defense received an interception from Adam Aboebied. "So we are going to go back tomorrow and we see what we can do as coaching staff to better prepare our team to convert inside the 20-yard line. I told them I was proud of how they played but at the end of the day we need to turn those opportunities into points."