Wheaton Warrenville South was on the ropes as West Aurora was attempting to snap its 15-game losing streak against the Tigers.
With West Aurora in WW South territory for only the second time in the schools’ DuPage Valley Conference opener on Friday night in Aurora, the Tigers’ Kevin Giltz intercepted his second pass of the game with less than three minutes to play.
WW South, which had issues in the red zone, relied on its defense all night in securing its first win of the season, 14-7, against a determined West Aurora team.
“They had all the momentum,” Giltz said as the Blackhawks were on the march yet again after their preceding 90-yard march had reduced their deficit in half. “We knew we had to get a stop. The turnovers and special-teams play gave us great field position tonight.”
West Aurora (1-2, 0-1) would have one last chance, backed up at its 17-yard line with a minute and change and no timeouts.
But the Tigers (1-2, 1-0) gang-tackled Cole Childs for a loss on fourth-and-10 to end the Blackhawks’ final uprising.
West Aurora has never defeated WW South in football since joining the league in the fall of 1997.
“We’re at the point where there are no consolation awards,” West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said. ‘We wanted to beat Wheaton South.”
The Blackhawks denied WW South on fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line to flavor the scoreless first quarter, but in a defensive struggle with field position as its central characteristic the Tigers pounced first.
Adam Rogers’ fumble recovery midway through the second quarter was the catalyst for the Tigers’ first scoring drive as the team needed to go only 53 combined yards on consecutive touchdown drives.
With senior feature back Brandon Adams out of action, WW South turned to Zackary Moberg to jump-start its offense.
The junior carried twice for 21 yards, plowing 7 yards on the second touch to give WW South a lead never to be relinquished with 6:23 to play before the break.
Following a West Aurora three-and-out and a poor punt, the Tigers needed but 4 plays to double their lead; tight end Brian Welch had a critical 23-yard reception, and Ryan Graham found Cole Krynicki two plays later from 6 yards out.
But WW South, despite several golden opportunities, would not score again.
The West Aurora defense was equally stingy; its players, spearheaded by linebackers Matt Williams and Spencer Thomas, swarmed to the Tigers’ ball-carriers like locusts.
“We weren’t intimidated,” Thomas said. “Our pass coverage was awesome. We just wanted to come and play.”
After Charles House trumped Giltz with a pick of his own against WW South, the Blackhawks’ offense finally found some rhythm.
Held to 90 yards for almost the first three quarters, West Aurora drove as many yards in 12 plays, with Booker Ross’ 3-yard run capping the drive with 8:40 remaining.
WW South drove right back downfield, only to have the drive stall; the Tigers’ missed two field goals, the second of which gave West Aurora the ball back at its 20 with 5:47 left.
“We’re really struggling in the passing game,” WW South coach Ron Muhitch said. “We needed to finish drives.”
But Giltz saved the day for WW South as the Tigers’ third turnover sealed the win.
Graham had a game-high 68 yards rushing for WW South; Moberg added 62 more on 12 carries.
“I think West Aurora is a much improved team,” Muhitch said. “They keep the pressure on you offensively.”
West Aurora quarterback Quintez Jones accounted for 187 of Blackhawks’ 208 total yards with 16 completions for 136 yards and a team-high 51 yards rushing.
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