Maine West hopes win over Highland Park seals playoff berth
Friday night at Maine West was one of 9 games that paired 4-4 teams against one another in high school football action.
Highland Park visited the host Warriors with playoff eligibility at stake.
It was Maine West that earned its fifth win, after a dominant 34-6 victory that saw the Warriors break away from Highland Park after a tight first-half contest.
The Warriors (5-4, 4-1) now await Saturday evening's IHSA pairings.
"We rose to the challenge," Warriors head coach George Klupchak said. "We had some opportunities in the first half to maybe break the game open and it just kind of slipped through our fingers a little bit. They kept at it and the second half turned out the way we wanted it to."
Maine West took a 7-0 lead on its opening possession on the first of senior tailback Isaac Pittman's 2 touchdowns, a 1-yard run at the 7:49 mark.
After a potential game-tying 59 yard TD strike from Giant QB David Finfer (16-35-123 yards) to John Walker was nullified by a holding call later on in the opening quarter, the Warrior defense took over.
It stifled Highland Park by picking Finfer off three times in the second quarter, including a pair which squelched potential scoring chances.
Maksym Makota celebrated his 16th birthday with a pick on the first play of the second, followed by an interception from Pittman at the Warrior 11 with 3:15 left in the first half.
"I was just reading (the play)," Pittman said. "I was playing back, and I just saw the ball and just went for it."
Jason Hidan snared another pick at the West 12 off a double-tipped ball that bounced off a pair of players from each team, which preserved its 7-0 advantage at the break.
The home team got a break just a few ticks into the second half when a misplayed opening kickoff by the Giants left them starting their opening series on their own 1 yard line.
After an 11-yard completion by Finfer to Nicholas Blumer, the ball was jarred loose on a hit from a Warrior defender that West LB Frankie Norman scooped up at the 14 and returned 12 yards, setting up Pittman's second TD of the night, for a 14-0 lead.
Pittman would finish with 107 yards on 17 carries.
West junior QB Tommy Delaney (171 yards passing and rushing combined) took over the scoring as he added an 8 yard scoring scamper in the third as well as a 15 yard scoring keeper with 10:04 left, which put the Warriors up 27-0.
Pittman's understudy, junior Onell Miller-Smith closed out the scoring for Maine West with a 12-yard run with 9:18 left. Junior RB Ezra Kornberg got Highland Park (4-5, 2-3) on the board with 55 seconds left on a 1-yard scoring run.
As his team now awaits its postseason fate, Klupchak remains optimistic.
"I'm still pretty sure that (winning) will get us in but you never know. There's 256 spots, and a lot of teams with 5 wins and we're one of them."