Scouting the Class 8A semifinal between Warren and Brother Rice

By Bill McLean

Daily Herald Correspondent


No. 24 Brother Rice (8-4) at No. 4 Warren (12-0)When: 4 p.m., Saturday

Last week: Brother Rice def. Minooka, 38-21; Warren def. Bolingbrook, 18-6.

Winner plays: No. 23 Marist (8-4) vs. No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (12-0) winner for the Class 8A state championship at NIU, Nov. 30, 7 p.m.

Outlook: Warren's best defense in program history has reduced offenses to pulp. Forty points allowed, in 12 football games? Ridiculous and wonderful and guided by a defensive coordinator, Justin VanSchaick, whose players dubbed him "Coach Juice." The 30-year-old VanSchaick, a 2007 Warren graduate and former linebacker, coached defensive linemen at his alma mater when head coach Bryan McNulty succeeded longtime coach Dave Mohapp before the start of the 2014 season.

"Justin," McNulty said, "has a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and he's developed great relationships with his players."

The dandy 'D' and the squad's productive 'O' (averaging 35.5 points per game) aim to avenge a 2018 state quarterfinal loss (20-0) when Warren collides with visiting and reigning 8A state runner-up Brother Rice Saturday afternoon.

"Simply unreal," Crusaders coach Brian Badke (Brother Rice, '92) said of Warren's puny points-allowed total. "It's a team that's well-coached in all 3 phases. Its players fly around and play very physical defense. That defense reminds me of the '85 [Super Bowl champion] Chicago Bears' defense. We're excited about the opportunity to compete against one of the best teams in the state."

Sophomores fuel BR's attack. Rice running back Willie Shaw, averaging 8.2 yards per carry, has rushed for 1,281 yards and 14 TDs; classmate Jack Lausch, a quarterback (7 rushing TDs, 2 passing TDs), averages 6.1 yards on keepers.

"He's really good now, and he'll be outstanding in the next 2 years," McNulty said of the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Lausch. "That's a battled-tested team, Brother Rice. It plays in a tough conference [CCL/ESCC Blue]. It knows how to win."

Warren's defense in the Blue Devils' 18-6 quarterfinal win at Bolingbrook displayed its signature stoutness last weekend, allowing only 79 total yards and getting 2 sacks apiece from senior linebacker Juan De La Cruz, junior linebacker Malachi McNeal and senior lineman Seamus Mellican. De La Cruz also finished with 6 of the Blue Devils' 13 tackles for loss. Blue Devils junior lineman Thomas Matheson dropped Yale-bound QB Devyn Suggs once.

Warren senior running back Derrick McLaughlin rushed 25 times for 90 yards and scored his 20th TD of the season. The Indiana State recruit also eclipsed the 1,500 yard-rushing mark in the quarterfinal. Senior multi-position threat Christian Phillips (31 receptions, 21.2 yards per catch, 19 overall TDs) came down with a pair of receptions for 50 yards against the Raiders.

Warren reached its first state semifinal in program history; Brother Rice - the Class 6A state champion in 1981 - finished runner-up in 6A in 1985 and matched that showing in 8A last fall.

"Not great," McNulty said of his memories of last year's 20-0 loss to host Brother Rice in a state quarterfinal. "Brother Rice stifled our offense. Defensively, we played OK."

Five starters on Warren's defense this year - Mellican, McNeal, De La Cruz, senior lineman Willis Singleton (Iowa State recruit) and senior defensive back Josh Turner - will have played in a regular season's worth of postseason games (9) after Saturday's semifinal.

Warren has outscored its 12 opponents 426-40 and its 3 playoff foes 98-19; Brother Rice's commensurate margins of victory: 298-217; 91-36. BR eliminated No. 1 seed Minooka 38-21 in a state quarterfinal on Nov. 16; Minooka (11-1) hadn't allowed more than 21 points in any of its previous 11 games.

McNulty, on the louder-than-a-drone buzz at Warren after last weekend's historic quarterfinal victory: "It's pretty fun for the kids. The entire community is excited."

McNulty, on the Blue Devils' fan support in Bolingbrook last weekend: "We had more fans than Bolingbrook did, significantly more. Our students travel well."

One more item about Warren's A-plus 'D': "Defense," McNulty said, "is something our program stresses to freshman players every year."

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