Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010
By Mike Clark
CHAMPAIGN -- Wheaton Warrenville South hasn't been down like this for a long time.
The Tigers were missing two of their top three receivers and trailed Lake Zurich by four points early in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's Class 7A state championship game at Memorial Stadium.
But WW South shook off that adversity the way Reilly O'Toole, Matt Rogers and Titus Davis shed tacklers en route to the Tigers' 28-17 comeback win over Lake Zurich.
The Tigers (14-0) pushed their winning streak to 26 games in winning their second consecutive state title and the school's seventh. Lake Zurich, which beat the Tigers in the 7A final in 2007, finished 12-2.
WW South's closest game this season before Saturday was a 28-7 win over Hinsdale Central in Week 1. This was more reminiscent of the 2009 state final, in which the Tigers beat Glenbard West in double overtime.
"We were expecting a dogfight and that's exactly what we got," said O'Toole, who threw two touchdown passes to Davis and accounted for 230 of the Tigers' 317 net yards.
Davis, the Tigers' leading receiver all season, was even more a focal point than usual with both Travis Kern and Dan Vitale out with collarbone injuries.
But life in the spotlight suited the speedy senior, who hauled in a 44-yard touchdown pass on Wheaton's first play from scrimmage and caught a 25-yard TD pass 17 seconds before halftime.
"Having Travis and Dan out ... They were a big part of our offense," said Davis (six catches, 104 yards), who finished the year with 58 receptions for 1,239 yards and 18 scores. "We had to suck it up."
So did the WW South defense, which was tasked with trying to stop elusive Lake Zurich running back Jacob Brinlee.
"The best running back I've played all year, bar none," WW South nose guard Sparty Chino said. "He's physical, hard to bring down."
Brinlee ran 33 times for 226 yards. He had 54 yards on five carries during the Bears' first scoring drive, which was capped by quarterback Zach Till's one-yard TD run late in the first quarter. He had 59 more during a second-quarter possession capped by Mike Leiva's 27-yard field goal 6:16 before halftime.
"Credit to Brinlee," WW South coach Ron Muhitch said. "He kept them in the game single-handedly."
Davis' second touchdown catch with 17 seconds left in the half put the Tigers back on top 14-10, a score that was unchanged till the first play of the fourth quarter. John Mularz's one-yard run gave Lake Zurich a 17-14 lead.
Though it was an unfamiliar position, the Tigers didn't panic. "Everyone was calm ... We all worked together and everything paid off," Davis said.
Especially O'Toole, who ran 13 times for 51 yards after carrying the ball just 70 times in the first 13 games. He also went 14 of 23 passing for 182 yards.
"Some of the runs he breaks, the passes he makes when you think the play's over he's a playmaker," Chino said. "That's what he does."
"Reilly is the best athlete I've ever coached at Wheaton Warrenville South as an offensive player," Muhitch said. "He's the complete package."
O'Toole's running and passing helped set up Rogers' one-yard scoring run with 9:14 left. Rogers (13 carries, 87 yards) then sealed the win with a 37-yard scoring dash with 1:48 remaining.
"For the most part we played smart football and made plays when we needed to," O'Toole said.
Enough to win another state title, in fact.