CHICAGO – After the prolific and record-setting season the Willowbrook offense had, the playoff loss to St. Rita wasn’t the farewell it will want to remember.
Maybe it was the rain pouring down throughout the game Nov. 1. Maybe it was simply the Mustangs’ defense. Either way, Willowbrook’s offense couldn’t get going in a 34-6 loss.
The Warriors’ defense kept them in the game for a while, allowing just seven points in the first half and forcing a turnover in the second quarter that led to the first score of the game, but eventually the lack of offensive production was too much to overcome. Standout quarterback Brian Johnson didn’t complete a pass in the second half.
“We put ourselves in bad spots going into the second half,” Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth. “We had opportunities to score and move the ball in the first half and we didn’t. We had big drops, misses in spots and never could really get the run game going.”
Neither team scored in the first quarter, but the Warriors recovered a fumble inside St. Rita territory early in the second quarter and capitalized. Johnson hit Hayden Adams on a fade pass from six yards out for a 6-0 lead.
The Mustangs regained the lead on a 3-yard run from quarterback Tommy Mister and went into halftime leading 7-6. Mister finally gave Rita some separation with a 34-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to make the score 17-6. Mister scored again in the fourth quarter and a late blocked punt in the end zone went for a touchdown to close out the scoring.
It was Willowbrook’s 11th straight playoff defeat, dating back to 1990 when the Warriors made the state quarterfinals.
Despite winning seven games, the most for Willowbrook since also winning seven in 2000, and making the playoff for a second straight year, the Warriors (7-3) did not meet Hildreth’s goals for the program.
“Realistically the expectations and the culture that we’re trying to create go past this,” Hildreth said. “We never talked specifically about long-term goals because we’re week-to-week, but ultimately the state championship is the goal. If not, we got work to do.”
The Warriors only lose two starters on a defense that started four sophomores, according to Hildreth.
Adams was a game-changer on both sides of the ball as a safety and wide receiver.
He was joined by offensive standouts Jeremy Barnes and Devin Childress as two-way players against St. Rita in an effort to boost the defense.
Most of the offensive starters graduate, including the four aforementioned standout skill players. Johnson finished the year with 3,344 passing yards and 32 touchdowns.
Barnes accounted for 1,912 yards of total offense and 14 TDs. Adams (1,358 receiving yards, 14 TDs) and Childress (916 yards, 10 TDs) also put up big numbers.
St. Rita 34, Willowbrook 6
Passing: Brian Johnson 6-for-20, 53 yards, TD
Rushing: Jeremy Barnes 16-77; Johnson 6-14
Receiving: Devin Childress 3-38; Hayden Adams 3-15, TD