Last-second score keeps Maine West's perfect season intact
Maine West's perfect start to its football season ended with a perfect ending at Friday's game with visiting Schaumburg before a big crowd in Des Plaines on Military Appreciation Night.
With one second left, senior tailback Onell Miller-Smith capped a 79-yard drive by the Warriors with a 1-yard run up the middle off a direct snap to give the hosts a dramatic 12-6 triumph, their third straight to start the season.
It was also the third straight 100-plus rushing game for Miller-Smith (116 yards on 21 carries). His TD came after classmate Davis Diaz's big interception gave the Warriors the ball at their own 21-yard line with 39.6 seconds left in the game.
The ensuing drive included 2 big catches by tight end and Illinois State recruit Ben Cooper from senior QB Tommy Delaney. One was for 25 yards on the second play and the other a 35-yarder on a crossing pattern, which gave West the ball at the 4-yard line with 7.4 seconds left.
Smith-Miller then ran 3 yards to get the Warriors inches from the goal line with 1 second remaining.
Following the Warriors' final timeout, Smith-Miller charged up the middle behind the line of senior Shaun Reeves, junior Brody Kroschel, senior Ethan Mattson, junior Erik Zotoiu, junior Lucas Burkett and senior Daniel Owens for the decisive score.
"I was nervous at first, but then I was confident my team had me," Smith-MIller said of his winning TD. "I went straight across from the center. Once we got the ball (after the interception), the only thing going through my mind was 'score'."
"Onell has great vision and he is a very tough runner," said West coach George Klupchack. "He is very good at making one cut and getting where he needs to be. We were expecting big things from him this season and he is living up to that."
Running behind a line of sophomore Matthias Zubcek, junior Jaden Buchanan, sophomore Zak Lane, junior Jaiden Hernandez and senior Ethan Fay, the Saxons put together the only first-half scoring drive by either team on the first possession of the game.
Beginning from their own 40-yard line, the Saxons' drive started with a 10-yard completion to sophomore Kile Gough followed by a 22 yard strike to senior Daniel Uczarczyk.
Four plays later, the visitors grabbed a 6-0 lead on junior quarterback Lucas Wagener's 10-yard strike to classmate Anthony Garcia, who caught the ball two yards into the end zone with 9:35 left in the opening quarter.
The Warriors' defense held the Saxons scoreless the rest of the way and tied the game at 6-6 with 4:43 left in the third quarter on senior Adam Aboebied's 11-yard run on a misdirection play that included a fake to Smith-Miller.
"Our guys made some plays and we got a fortunate penalty as well on the final drive," Klupchack said.
"I was really impressed by Ben Cooper who caught that hitch route and took it for another 20 yards (breaking tackles to the 4-yard line). We also got a pass interference call that got us in scoring range for our first touchdown."
Also getting interceptions for West were Cooper and Maxwell Nister. Tre Thomas had one for Schaumburg (1-2).
"Our defense played great, too," Klupchack added. "To give up only 6 points against a well-coached team (Mark Stilling) which has a running back (Anthony DiGoia who gained 72 yards) and quarterback (Wagener) as good as they are, is a credit to our defensive coordinator (Tony Zitzka) and the kids. Starting out 3-0 is just a testament to our kids. We told them this week it was going to come down winning one-on-one battles and on that last drive a number of our kids stepped up and won them. I'm just really proud of them for being able to do that.