Maine West stays perfect, clinches conference title

The loyal Maine West fan base gutted out Friday's rainy and wet conditions in Des Plaines and poured onto the field after watching its Warriors rally in the second half for a 14-3 triumph over Niles West.

And why not?

The boys from Des Plaines made history becoming the school's first football team since 1959 to win its first eight games.

In the process, the Warriors (8-0, 4-0) also won the Central Suburban North championship for the first time since 2019 when it won its third straight.

And they did by winning for the fourth time this season after trailing at half, this time to the 5-3, 2-2 Wolves from Skokie.

“I just love my team so much,” said tight end Kyle Ramirez, whose 23-yard TD catch in the middle of the field sealed the deal at 14-3 with 3:03 left in the game. “We have worked so hard. We are brothers. Last season we went 5-4, barely making it into the payoffs. Now we're 8-0 and just working hard. We start every week at 0-0, looking to go 1-0.”

The only points in the first half were off the foot of Wolves kicker Gabriel Filipczuk, who booted a 31-yard field goal with 18.2 seconds left before intermission.

“At half, our game was to spread it out a little more and try to run off tackle,” said Maine West coach George Klupchack. “We were able to do that and have a little more success running the ball in the second half so that was exciting to see.”

In their second possession of the half, the Warriors went 80 yards, capped by a 1-yard TD run by senior ONell Miller-Smith (75 yards on 19 carries) off right tackle to give West a 6-3 lead with 1:42 left in the third quarter.

Jason Salazar's extra point off the hold of quarterback Tommy Delaney and the snap from Ethan Mattson made it 7-3.

That's the way it stood until 3:03 was left in the game.

After the Warriors had first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, a pair of successive penalties backed them up to the 23-yard line.

However, Delaney then found Ramirez for the game-clinching TD.

“Our backs ran hard and the line (Mattson, Erik Zotoiu, Brody Kroschel, Shaun Reeves, Lucas Burkett and Daniel Owens) blocked really well,” Klupchack said. “When we got backed up, Tommy made the clutch pass and Kyle was able to punch it in. I can't say enough about Kyle character-wise. He brings the intensity to practice every day. I'm so excited for him that he got the touchdown that sealed it.”

“Great play call by our coach,” said Delaney, one of West's 24 seniors honored before the game. “We did a little play fake with our guards so the middle linebacker came uphill and Kyle slipped right behind them and was wide open. That was awesome.

“This is such an amazing feeling, especially being 7-0 going into our Senior Night. There was so much pressure and to come out with a win like this is unbelievable. It's just about heart.

“Last year we were inches away from the conference championship.To pull it out this year is amazing.”

Niles West almost pulled off a kickoff return to start the game but Adam Aboebied made a TD-saving tackle on Basil Tate's exciting 64-yard return which gave the visitors the ball at the host's 29-yard line.

Aboebied also made a key break-up of a pass that was thrown into the end zone prior to Filiczpuk's field goal.

“He's (Aboebied) one of our captains,” Klupchack. “When I talk about all the hard work these guys have put in, Adam is one of the guys who didn't miss a single offseason-workout. That kind of stuff pays off.”

The versatility of senior punter/running back/ inside linebacker Frankie Norman also paid off. Norman (60 yards on 8 carries) had some key runs to spark the offense,

“He does everything for us,” Klupchack said. “He flies around the field and he was getting great pressure on their quarterback (John Bae), who is a great runner himself, and making him uncomfortable on their last drive.

“Hats off to our defense. I can't say enough about Tony Zitzka and his staff. The preparation they bring every week is truly incredible.”

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