VILLA PARK – A year ago, Brian Johnson had to watch his teammates play in the biggest game of the season.
Johnson, the Warriors’ prolific senior quarterback, was injured for the Warriors’ 39-16 loss to Hononegah in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs last season. Being helpless for that game has made Johnson that much more excited for tonight’s playoff game at St. Rita.
“This was a big motivation for me because last year it was just the worst feeling in the world watching my team struggle without me,” Johnson said. “That’s why I made a point that I wanted to get in that playoff game and I wasn’t accepting anything else.”
Willowbrook had already clinched a playoff spot before last Friday’s 49-32 win over District 88 rival Addison Trail in the regular season finale. Still, it was a meaningful game with The Lady trophy on the line.
Johnson accounted for five of Willowbrook’s seven touchdowns in a high-scoring game. He passed for three scores and ran for two more. After what Johnson has done throughout the season, including throwing for 675 yards in a win over Lyons Township, the fact that he passed for 181 yards seems like a relatively low total.
Running back Jeremy Barnes took the load with a staggering 40 carries for 249 yards and two touchdowns. The win was just another example of how hard Willowbrook’s offense is to stop. The Warriors can score both through the air and on the ground.
“Sometimes our pass numbers are big and sometimes we run,” Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth said. “We just take what teams give us and attack from there.”
Willowbrook finished the regular season 7-2 and 4-1 in the West Suburban Gold, one game behind league winner Downers Grove South. The next task for the Warriors is to find a way to beat a St. Rita team that is coming off its best win of the season, a 31-19 win over previously undefeated Loyola.
St. Rita (8-1) shared the title in the loaded Chicago Catholic League Blue and has plenty of talent. Quarterback Tommy Mister, an Iowa State recruit, ran for four touchdowns and over 200 yards against the Ramblers. The Mustangs also have Syracuse-bound cornerback Lamar Dawson.
The Warriors will be looking to pull the upset and extend the season.
“We’re glad to get to the playoffs and keep with our family as least one more week,” Johnson said.
Addison Trail 32
Passing: Brian Johnson 16-for-24, 181 yards, 3 TDsRushing: Jeremy Barnes 40-249, 2 TDs; Johnson 9-83, 2 TDsReceiving: Hayden Adams 6-91, TD; Devin Childress 5-46, TD; Barnes 3-26, TD
Playoff opener: Willowbrook at St. Rita
When: 7 p.m. FridayWhere: Doyle Stadium, 7740 S. Western Ave.Records: No. 6 Willowbrook 7-2; No. 3 St. Rita 8-1Outlook: Willowbrook's offense put up huge numbers throughout the year and is good enough to give them a chance in every game, but facing St. Rita is an extremely difficult draw for the Warriors. The Mustangs shared the title in the powerful Chicago Catholic League Blue by losing only to Mt. Carmel and beating previously unbeaten Loyola in Week 9.