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Tough D helps Tigers top Redhawks

Erica Benson -
Wheaton Warrenville South's Ryan Graham (middle) runs for the decisive touchdown in the Tigers' 14-7 win over Naperville Central on Friday.
Erica Benson - Wheaton Warrenville South's Ryan Graham (middle) runs for the decisive touchdown in the Tigers' 14-7 win over Naperville Central on Friday.

WHEATON – To hear Joe Kazar tell it, coordinator Mark Jackson and his assistants do a lot of the heavy lifting for the Wheaton Warrenville South defense.

All the players have to do is simply follow their lead.

On Friday, the Tigers’ adhered to the gameplan, holding a powerful Naperville Central offense to a single touchdown in a 14-7 victory. The Redhawks came into the game averaging nearly 46 points per contest.

“It’s all on the coaches,” the senior linebacker said. “During the week, they put together a great plan for the defense to succeed just like they do every week. Then they leave it up to us to execute and do what they taught.”

Wheaton Warrenville South has now allowed just 75 points on the season. Then again, a dominant unit under Jackson is nothing new.

“He is unbelievable,” Kazar said. “He is one of the smartest guys I know when it comes to football and he proves that every year. He has really never failed.”

And as has been the case in most of the recent seasons, the Tigers again aren’t a very physically imposing group.

“Honestly, it’s hustling to the ball on every play,” the senior said, “and giving 110-percent effort on every single play. Never taking a play off and also staying disciplined.”

Coming off a loss to Naperville North in Week 5, the outstanding defensive effort was needed, especially with Naperville Central making it tough on the Tigers’ offense.

The score was tied at 7-7 until late in the fourth quarter, when quarterback Ryan Graham scored the game-winner on an seven-yard run with 2:45 remaining on the clock.

“Those were a very evenly matched two teams,” said Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch. “[Naperville Central coach] Mike [Stine] has a great group of seniors and I have a great group of seniors and I think both of our teams will do well.”

Muhitch praised his seniors for the way they conducted themselves after a tough loss the previous week.

“These seniors have great character,” he said. “After a loss, the seniors are the ones who decide how your ship is going to go. On Monday (after the Naperville North loss), we had I thought our best practice of the season. They responded very positively after the loss.

“I can’t say enough about our senior leadership. That made all the difference.”

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