Big 2nd half sends Wheaton Academy past St. Charles East
Despite allowing a go-ahead touchdown to St. Charles East in the final seconds of the first half, Wheaton Academy's football team seized the momentum early in the third quarter and never relinquished it.
Jack Roth recovered a Saints' fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half, and 3 plays later, Brandon Kiebles' 4-yard touchdown run gave the Warriors a 24-21 lead with 10:46 left in the third quarter.
The Warriors (2-0) added 2 more touchdowns and an Ethan Head field goal during their 41-23 nonconference triumph over the host Saints (0-2) Friday night in St. Charles.
Deonta Giles' fumble recovery helped set up Kiebles' 5-yard touchdown run, and Brett Kasper's interception -- his second of the night -- set up Head's 33-yard field goal to make it 34-21 after 3 quarters.
Kasper, who picked off a pair of passes from his defensive back spot, also completed 9 of 17 passes for 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns at quarterback -- the last coming on a 34-yard TD strike to Giovanni Spinelli (5 catches, 78 yards) with 4:30 remaining to seal the decision for the Warriors.
"It's a big win," said Kasper. "Last year, we had a couple games where we played tough but couldn't finish them off. We're glad to come together as a team and finish this one off strong."
The Warriors also received huge contributions from defensive linemen Jeremy Johanik, Ethan Brunner, Kolonati Zibaya, and defensive backs Brett Dieter, Charles Coniaris, Spinelli, and Kasper.
"This is an environment we're not used to," said Warriors coach Jim Johanik. "This is a large school (St. Charles East). This is homecoming for them. I think the environment got to us a little early on but once we settled down, we figured out that there's 100 yards on this football field -- just like the one we play on at home.
"We finished last season losing 17-3 to Providence Catholic (in the playoffs), and they made it to the state finals, so we know we can play with bigger teams. It's hard for this program to do this week in and week out, but you can rally these guys for a couple weeks like this."
St. Charles East, which committed 6 turnovers -- the Warriors turned 3 of them into 21 points -- grabbed a 7-0 lead on McGreevy Paul's 1-yard keeper following a fumble recovery by senior defensive back Joey Strada.
Tailback Brandon Swartz (20 carries, 51 yards) scored on a 4-yard TD run, and Charles Bolsoni (8 catches, 171 yards) caught a 43-yard TD pass from Paul to give the Saints a 21-17 halftime advantage.
But the Warriors outscored the Saints, 24-2, in the second half.
"We did a lot of things offensively that we liked, and we never capitalized," said Saints coach Nolan Possley. "We kept stubbing our toe when we had an opportunity, and they took their opportunities and ran with them.
"We have things we can build off getting into conference. We know what's ahead of us in our conference. We're going to put our heads down and go back to work."