Short-handed Lisle falls to Wilmington

WILMINGTON - Wilmington's traditions and success on the football field are well known, but Lisle coach Paul Parpet Sr. hopes his Lions are making a name for themselves.

While the third-seeded Wildcats dispatched the Lions 24-12 Friday night in Wilmington in first-round action of the Class 3A playoffs, the visitors made the home team fight for every yard before having their second straight playoff season come to an end.

"That's the Lisle way. Whoever goes out on the field against us knows they're going to have a fight," Parpet said. "We may have been missing some key players tonight, but we battled them. That's the Lisle way."

For the Wildcats and their home faithful, the "Wildcat ways" include fireworks and a motorcycle escort onto the field prior to kickoff, and then plenty of hard runs and hard hits.

Wilmington (9-1), which defeated Lisle during the regular season, marched down the field on the opening drive for 75 yards and a touchdown, without attempting a pass. In fact, the Wildcats did not attempt a throw all night, using a strong ground game to eat up yards and the clock and to take a 14-0 lead in the second quarter on the second of quarterback Keaton Hopwood's three short touchdown runs.

But the Lions, who were without two of their top two-way players - Brett Weber and Mike Walker were both out with injuries - hung tough. They closed the gap to 14-6 at the half on a pretty pass from Aidan Lombardo to Demetrius King Jr., who made a difficult catch in the right corner of the end zone while well covered on the play.

Lombardo then broke off a 44-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the second half and all of a sudden the visitors were within 14-12.

"We really didn't want the season to end," said Lombardo, who played a key role in the school's first back-to-back playoff appearances in more than a decade. "It's tough. Everyone in our conference, and even everyone in the state, knows Wilmington and knows what they like to run. Credit to them. They're a real good team and I wish them luck next week."

With Weber and Walker out, several Lions stepped up. Connor Nigro picked up extra carries in their absence and also helped the Lisle defense, which also got a spark from new outside linebacker Josh Farrell, a junior who saw his first significant varsity action on defense.

"We gave it our all," said Nigro, a senior. "It was a great season. It's been hard (with key injuries), but a lot of guys stepped up."

In the end the Wildcats' ground game proved just too tough. Jacob Rodawald led the way with 153 yards on 25 carries, Trey Shaw added 94 yards on the ground and Hopwood fought his way into the end three times against a determined Lions defense.

Parpet, who knows Wildcats coach Jeff Reents well, reiterated that his squad will give anyone a fight once they get on the football field.

"Our offensive scheme was good and we battled," he said. "But they're just really tough to consistently stop. But again, I know Jeff well and he knows we're going to give them a fight. It's the Lisle way."

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