Wheaton Warrenville South slows down St. Charles East for 5th win

Needing a victory to secure a playoff berth, Wheaton Warrenville South's football team got the job done Friday night in St. Charles.

Senior tailback Matthew Crider rushed for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as the Tigers (5-4, 4-3) punched their ticket to the postseason with a 24-3 victory over St. Charles East (1-8, 1-6) at Norris Stadium.

"We knew this game would determine our season," said Crider, whose 24-yard touchdown run with 8:50 left in the third quarter all but sealed the decision. "If we lose, we're done. If we win, we're in the playoffs."

Behind an offensive line that included Connor Archer, Aaron Vivar, Zane Cross, Russell Styrkowicz and Joe Preede, the Tigers rushed for 232 yards.

Meanwhile, the defense also did its part, as junior outside linebacker Jackson Whitkanack and sophomore middle linebacker Axel Boecker helped make things difficult for the Saints.

"I thought we controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage," said Tigers coach Sean Norris. "The offensive line was moving piles, and the defensive line put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, which helped us force some errant throws.

"I'm just very proud of this group. We've battled through a lot of adversity. We've played a really good schedule. Our conference is phenomenal. Our goal has been to play in playoff football. They've responded, and they earned the victory tonight."

Following an interception by senior cornerback Daijion Riley, the Tigers capped a 4-play, 35-yard drive with quarterback Luca Carbonaro's 20-yard flip pass to junior wideout Amari Williams for a touchdown and 7-0 first-quarter lead.

After the Saints' Sam Frausto kicked a 25-yard field goal, the Tigers extended their lead to 17-3 at the half on Brendan Hary's 34-yard field goal and Crider's 4-yard TD run.

Carbonaro completed 10 of 14 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, while Crider and Owen Yorke combined for 219 rushing yards.

"The key was running the ball," Crider said. "The offensive line did great, and the receivers did a great job blocking downfield.

"We just kept grinding. We made our adjustments and got stronger as the game went on."

The Tigers will wait for the IHSA playoff pairings to be released Saturday night to determine next week's opponent.

"Now, it's the fun part," Norris said. "It's a special time, and I'm happy that these guys can be a part of it. I want them to embrace every part of the playoffs."

Senior quarterback Mac Paul completed 22 of 37 passes for 256 yards, while receivers Sheko Gjokaj and Charles Bolsoni led the way. Senior tailback Brandon Swartz added 5 receptions for 54 yards along with 17 rushing yards.

"There was never a moment where we saw quit from them," said Saints coach Nolan Possley. "The players took so much pride from that.

"Everybody here would say that they're disappointed in the record of the season, but every week of practice felt like we were prepping for the playoffs. The seniors were an awesome group of guys who bought into the brotherhood part. That was great to see."

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