Wheaton Academy's defense dominates St. Viator
Wheaton Academy used an old school Catholic League formula to upended St. Viator 12-3 Friday in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs in Arlington Heights.
Wheaton Academy (10-1) advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in school history. The No. 4 Warriors will be home next week to play the winner of Saturday's game between Chicago Dyett and Sandwich.
It was defense and field position sprinkled in with a solid running game that enabled Wheaton Academy to move on.
"I was pleased with our guys because we established the run game," Wheaton Academy coach Jim Johanik said. "Our defense stood up today. They came and arrived."
The kicking game by the Warriors' Ethan Head kept St. Viator (6-5) in a hole the entire game. The Lions started their first five possessions on their own 20-yard line each time.
"Ethan Head is one of the best in the country," Johanik said. "He is a special player."
Wheaton Academy's defense, led by Jeremiah Johanik, Ethan Brunner, Robert Grant, William From and Jake Weston, held Viator to just 22 rushing yards and 129 yards of total offense.
"We game planned down to every motion," said Jeremiah Johanik, who plays middle linebacker. "Nothing surprised us. Everything we saw, we saw a thousand times in practice. We stopped them. They got nothing on us."
Brunner, who plays defensive end said they key was to contain St. Viator quarterback Conor Kmet.
"We knew that he is a great runner and passer," Brunner said. "We just kept preaching contain, contain, contain. Upfront our goal is to play hard and play for our brother."
Wheaton Academy took the early lead thanks to a 39-yard field goal by Head with 6:11 left in the first quarter.
The Warriors then put together their own successful scoring drive.
They drove 63 yards in seven plays running the ball successfully while eating up clock. Gino Spinelli had an 11-yard TD run to make it 9-0. It stayed that way because Viator's Dreise Rapp was able to block Head's conversion kick.
The score remained that way until Viator was able to begin a drive with some reasonable field position.
Beginning at their own 36, the Lions moved the ball downfield behind the passing of Cooper Kmet (14-of-25, 107 yards) to the Warriors' 11. But when the drive stalled. Gabe Glodz came on to boot a 31-yard field goal to cut the margin to 9-3 with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
Viator then came up with a coupe of huge stops to stay in the game.
Wheaton Academy came right back and pushed the ball down the Viator 1-yard line. But after two unsuccessful plays, the Warriors fumbled and the Lions recovered in the end zone.
The Warriors then looked to increase their lead midway in the fourth quarter when Head attempted a 27-yard field goal. But Raap again came up with a huge play and blocked the field goal attempt.
But the Lions couldn't capitalize. On fourth down and five at their own 21, the Lions came up short when they were only able to gain three yards.
The Warriors went backward thanks to tackle for a loss and motion penalty. But Head came in and blasted a 46-yard field goal with 3:54 left to put the game away.
"It takes a lot to get to this point," Johanik said. "We still have a way to go. I don't blame anyone for not believing in us. This is one of those games that puts us on the map."
It was great run by Viator, which needed a win in the final week of the season just to make the playoffs. The Lions then upended Richmond-Burton in the first round. But the loss Friday kept the string alive of never winning two playoff games in the same season.
Despite that, St. Viator coach Dave Archibald said that this was a successful season.
"You have to execute at high level and this was not our best night," Archibald said. "We started 16 underclassmen and fought through our schedule to get here. I am so proud of them for that."