All-state kicker, weather, other team's defense all do in Warren
DeKALB - Horizontal rain swept across Huskie Stadium's field, delivering icy slaps to faces. Warren football fans, bundled in a cold-weather gear and rain ponchos, filled the bleachers and didn't flinch.
So what that it was also 38 degrees at game time.
What's an historically good defense without equally tough fans, who had never seen their team play in a state semifinal, let alone a state championship game?
So naturally on a night that only an old-schooler could love, the outcome of the Class 8A state championship game came down to defense. And a kicker.
Dominic Dzioban, an all-state kicker and Miami of Ohio commit, drilled 46- and 45-yard field goals in the first half. That was all Lincoln-Way East needed in a 12-0 win on Saturday night that capped a 14-0 season for the Griffins, while handing Warren its first loss.
When Michigan-bound AJ Henning busted off a 56-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds left in the third quarter, it marked the first time all season that an opponent hit double-digit points against Warren.
Who knew there was a high school defense in Illinois as good, if not better, than the Blue Devils? What Warren did, pitching 6 shutouts and allowing 40 points through 13 weeks (47 points fewer than Lincoln-Way East) was something we've never seen from a Lake County team and might never again.
"I think we're all really proud of (what we accomplished defensively), but I think the reason why we were so good was because we were never satisfied," junior defensive lineman Tommy Matheson said. "We always wanted more. It's a testament to how competitive all of us are, and I think that's going to stick with me the rest of my life."
Carmel Catholic allowed 209 points in going 14-0 and winning the Class 6A state championship in 2003.
Libertyville allowed 164 points in going 14-0 and winning the Class 7A state championship in 2004.
Lake Zurich allowed 104 points in going 13-1 and winning the Class 7A state championship in 2007.
Stevenson allowed 160 points in going 14-0 and winning the Class 7A state championship in 2014.
Before Warren, the last two Lake County teams that went to state (and also finished second with a 13-1 record) were Libertyville in 2015 and Lake Zurich in 2017. Libertyville surrendered 216 points that season, Lake Zurich 139.
How good were the defenses of those Paul Adams-coached Deerfield teams in the 1970s? IHSA records don't provide information.
So consider Warren's 52 points allowed in 14 games the record to beat.
In the end, in a battle of knock-you-into-tomorrow defenses, Lincoln-Way proved stingier, not allowing a first down to the Blue Devils until there was 4:40 left in the third quarter.
It didn't take anything away from what Warren's defense achieved in 2019.
"I'm not going to remember the stats as much as the bonds we made over the season," senior defensive end Seamus Mellican said. "And also the mentality we had."
"This loss, for us seniors," linebacker Juan De La Cruz said, "is going to stick with us forever."
Warren fans will remember this season, proudly, forever.
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