Offensive line fronts Wheaton Warrenville South win against Lake Park
He may not have been around at the beginning, but Wheaton Warrenville South senior running back Matthew Crider is doing his part see to it that the Tigers have a strong finish.
While missing three games with an ankle injury, Crider saw his team open the year 1-2, which is not the best way to try and get your team back to the playoffs after a 3-6 campaign. But Friday night Crider and the Wheaton Warrenville South offensive line powered by host Lake Park 31-8 to improve to 4-3 on the year, 3-2 in the DuKane Conference, and 3-1 since Crider's return to the football field.
Crider carried the ball 18 times for 146 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown that gave his team a 24-0 lead in the third quarter. He turned the ball over to Adam Middleton in the fourth quarter and the Tigers' backup back added 94 yards on the ground.
"The offensive line did a great job. We knew we had to keep on winning to get to the playoffs. We're 4-3 now so obviously we need one more to get to the playoffs," said Crider, who credited his team's defense with an early turnover and then three quarters of shutout ball before the Lancers finally scored in the fourth quarter. "That interception early was a big momentum shift and starting 10-0 in the first quarter gave us a lot of confidence on both sides of the ball."
Connor Sliwa picked off a pass near midfield on Lake Park's first possession, and it set the stage for a 25-yard field goal by Maison Haas for a quick 3-0 lead. With WW South getting a strong effort from its offensive and defensive lines, the visitors took a 10-0 on the first of three short scoring runs by quarterback Luca Carbonaro.
The lead was 17-0 at the half after Carbonaro's 1-yard keeper in the second quarter and it grew to 24-0 after Crider's long run to the end zone in the third quarter.
"Special things happen when we play complimentary football. We talk about offense, defense and special teams all playing together and they matured tonight," Tigers coach Sean Norris said. "We're getting better each week and tonight it was all gas and no brakes."
Lake Park, which dropped to 4-3, tried to rally in the fourth quarter after Declan Fortuna scored on a 13-yard touchdown run and then hauled in an 18-yard, 2-point conversion pass from George Tzamouranis that closed the gap to 24-8 following a penalty.
The Lancers defense then forced a three-and-out but the Tigers defense would not allow Lake Park to get any closer on this night, and WW South sealed the victory with a long drive capped off by Carbonaro's third touchdown run.
"Tonight was the first time all season where I felt we didn't do a good job tackling," Lancers coach Chris Kirkpatrick said. "But also our offense just didn't get enough first downs and field position hurt us in the first half."
Kirkpatrick is hopeful his team can pick up at least one more win in the final two weeks, with St. Charles North and Wheaton North left on the schedule. He'd love to see Fortuna - who ran for 148 yards Friday - and his fellow seniors to get a crack at the playoffs.
"Declan is incredible. He always gets a couple big ones [runs] every game," Kirkpatrick said. "We need to get another one so these seniors that I'm so proud of and get into the playoffs."