Wind can't stop Warren, Thompson in win over Andrew
Wind played havoc on football games across the Midwest on Saturday.
But if there was ever a matchup where a strong wind wouldn't be a big deal, it was this one. Warren is renowned for a defensive-minded, ground-and-pound approach, while Andrew threw the ball just four times in its first-round playoff win over Huntley.
As it turned out, the wind was a factor strategically as the Blue Devils rolled to a 41-7 playoff win in Tinley Park. Warren (10-1) will return to the south suburbs next week to face Lincoln-Way East in an 8A quarterfinal matchup, and rematch of the 2019 state title game.
The Blue Devils were true to their form with senior running back Charley Thompson gaining a career-high 224 yards on 23 carries.
"We were pretty excited coming in because we love running the ball, as people have seen," Thompson said. "Our O-line was so ready to go. Everyone knew the wind was going to happen. They knew we were going to run the ball, they knew we were going to run the ball. We just executed."
Late in the first quarter, Warren coach Bryan McNulty used all three timeouts to try to keep the wind advantage for as long as possible. It paid off, with quarterback Adam Behrens hitting Taylen Curry with a 33-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0 with 48 seconds left before the quarter break.
"Pregame I had to practice each side, get my touch on the ball, we were prepared," Behrens said. "We knew we had the wind at our back. We threw it up to our big guy, Taylen Curry, and he came down with a big grab."
The wind was coming from the southwest, so it was partially a cross wind and partially favoring the team headed toward the north end zone.
"We brought our specialists out like 20 minutes earlier than we normally do just so we could get a feel for it," McNulty said.
"Our coaches did a good job of going out and calculating it."
Thompson started the scoring with a 39-yard TD run where he juked most of Andrew's defensive backfield. Justin Kretz scored on a 4-yard run early in the second quarter to make it 20-0.
The host T-bolts run an option-based wing-T. But when they fell behind, QB Andrew Skarzynski had some success throwing to tall receiver Joey Burke, who hauled in 7 catches for 101 yards.
After a botched rugby-style punt, Andrew took possession at the Warren 10-yard line, but couldn't score. The T-bolts also failed on fourth down at the 8-yard line just before halftime. When Cassius Callahan returned the third quarter kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, Warren was in command at 27-7.
One unsung hero for the Blue Devils was junior Donovan McNeal, who helped shut down Andrew's rushing attack at linebacker, then filled in at running back and scored on a 23-yard sprint. Thompson's 47-yard run closed out the scoring.
"We call Donovan, the 'Microwave.' He's instant offense, right?" McNulty said. "He just sort of comes in and gets stuff done all the time. He's a running back by trade and we moved him to linebacker this year for the team. He's really strong. He's like a 500-pound squatter."
Andrew finished with just 63 yards rushing. The T-bolts are the second-smallest school in the 8A field and haven't been past the second round since 1997.