York routs Oak Park, completes first 9-0 season
After a runner-up West Suburban Silver finish a year ago, York accomplished more than just its goal of an outright conference title Thursday night.
The Dukes also made history.
Capping off a perfect regular season with a 34-8 road win over Oak Park-River Forest, York became the first team in the 102-year history of the football program to go 9-0.
The only other squad to go undefeated was the 1932-33 group that went 7-0-2. This is the program's first outright league championship since 2006, a year where the Dukes reached the state semifinals, after sharing the title in 2007 and 2010.
"It's awesome," said senior QB Matt Vezza, who completed 27-of-38 passes for 286 yards. "It doesn't feel real. We've been fighting so hard as a group since the first day of summer camp. We have been working relentlessly toward this goal and to have it happen is amazing.
"We have a lot of returning seniors who were a part of last year's team and knew what it felt like to come up short with a few of our goals, even though we had a good season. We knew what happened and didn't want it to happen again. And we have a group of juniors who are extremely talented. It all came together."
Vezza threw three touchdown passes, two to Luke Mailander in the second half. The junior hauled in scoring receptions of 20 and 33 yards.
"This group is selfless, team-first," Mailander said. "We've got great team chemistry and we trust each other. Everyone is going to have a big game here and there. But we know that if we aren't making plays, someone else is.
"We had extra motivation having gone through last year. Going 8-1 (in the regular season) and coming up short stunk. We didn't want that to happen again. This is awesome but we are also focused on the bigger picture."
Kelly Watson also found the end zone twice for the Dukes, on a 2-yard TD run and a 14-yard catch and finished with seven receptions for 52 yards.
Defensively, York held the Huskies to just 60 total yards and four first downs before the home team's final scoring drive. Yielding a total of 72 points this fall, the Dukes got interceptions from Jack Korzeniowski and Evan Grazzini.
"We all trust each other," Korzeniowski said about the defensive unit. "We've been working hard the past four years and that has really shown this year. We have great coaches and great game plans. It has all kind of clicked this season."
Damian Glodz added field goals of 38 and 20 yards. In addition, Anthony Mancini had five catches for 73 yards and Charlie Specht tallied eight receptions for 58 yards.
"It's unbelievable," said York coach Mike Fitzgerald, whose team will be one of the top seeds in Class 8A. "Our mantra when I came into this program was pound the stone. The idea is in order to break the rock, you have to keep hammering away at it. And the kids bought into that.
"A lot of kids who aren't around, the alums, they got this thing going. They are just as big a part of this as the guys on the field today. It's an incredibly talented team who is very selfless. All three phases, we have had so many guys step up. We have a lot of kids who play for each other, who have love for each other and that's a powerful thing."
Oak Park (4-5, 1-5), which still has a shot to make the playoffs, scored its lone touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Jack Gooch to Ryan Martin.
"I believe we have a very good conference," said Oak Park coach and 1994 York graduate John Hoerster. "You have some really good teams and York going 9-0 is a great accomplishment. You are going to have to win some tight games and they did that.
"When you watch them on film, they don't really have any weaknesses. Hats off to them. They are a really well-rounded team."