Warren overpowers South Elgin to reach 8A quarterfinals
Displaying a powerful running game coupled with some timely long passes, Warren's offense proved to be a formidable force during the Blue Devils' 51-21 second-round Class 8A playoff victory over host South Elgin Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore Aaron Stewart rushed for 194 yards on 27 carries and a career-best 4 touchdowns, while senior Donovan McNeal added 132 yards on 15 yards and a touchdown, as the Blue Devils (9-2) punched their ticket to next weekend's state quarterfinals against Lincoln-Way East (11-0).
Warren scored on its first 2 offensive possessions, driving 89 yards in 7 plays, jumping out to a 6-0 lead on Stewart's 3-yard touchdown run, before making it 12-0 on Stewart's 4-yard TD run to cap an 8-play, 76-yard march.
The first scoring drive included a 51-yard pass from quarterback Jack Wolf to receiver Nathan Foster from the Blue Devils' 19-yard line.
"The opening post play was a killer," said Storm coach Dragan Teonic. "They hadn't shown the ability to throw the ball during the season and they rip us on the opening post. That flipped the field."
Following an interception by Chris McBride, the Blue Devils added their third touchdown in as many possessions - a 1-yard run by Stewart - to make it 19-0.
South Elgin (9-2) got on the board late in the first half, as quarterback Kevon Brooks tossed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Ishmael George, one play after a 71-yard pass to Lucas Noworol.
Any semblance of Storm momentum came to an abrupt halt when Wolf (5 of 6, 152 yards) connected with Xzavion Montgomery on a 45-yard touchdown pass with 6.7 seconds remaining in the second quarter, as the Blue Devils grabbed a 26-7 halftime lead.
"Jack is a big-time player," Warren coach Bryan McNulty said of his quarterback. "Some of the games that we've had haven't called for it - to throw the ball a lot. He's a huge asset to what we do."
Warren put the game out of reach with an 18-point third quarter, highlighted by Foster's 41-yard touchdown run, Wolf's 28-yard field goal, and Stewart's fourth touchdown of the game on a 9-yard run.
Behind an offensive line that included Hunter Axton, Anthony Wyche, Joey DeVries, Max Saucedo, Aidan Porreca and Andrew Slack, the Blue Devils finished with 580 total yards, including 428 on the ground.
"It's a big focus point on our offense to be physical," said Axton, a junior left tackle. "When you have long drives, it feels like you're a dominant force that can't be stopped."
Stewart appreciated the help.
"I love all the dudes on offense," he said. "We're (along with McNeal) real low to the ground but we're strong, too."
Stewart and McNeal combined for 326 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns.
"Donovan and Aaron had big games, but our offensive line was the real star," said McNulty.
George finished with 5 receptions for 147 yards and 3 touchdowns for South Elgin, which suffered its fourth consecutive second-round setback.
"They played outstanding," Teonic said of the Blue Devils. "We closed the gap on what 8A football looks like. We have so many young guys. We only had 15 seniors on the team, and only 8 or 9 played.
"This doesn't mean we're a bad football team - it means that Warren is a very good football team. We'll keep knocking on the door, and eventually, we will break through."