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Sports

Wheaton South's storybook season ends in quarterfinal

Wheaton Warrenville South's Michael Stebbins (12) drops back to pass against the Providence Celtics on Saturday at Providence High School in New Lenox.
Wheaton Warrenville South's Michael Stebbins (12) drops back to pass against the Providence Celtics on Saturday at Providence High School in New Lenox.

NEW LENOX – The captivating seven-week run by the Wheaton Warrenville South football team came to an end on Saturday, but not without a fight against one of the top teams in the state.

While the final score was a 23-6 loss to Providence in a Class 7A quarterfinal that ended the Tigers’ season and six-game winning streak, the contest hung in the balance until late in the fourth quarter.

“After being 1-4, do you know how close we were to turning this around and being right there in the semifinals?” WWS coach Ron Muhitch said. “I feel bad for the kids since they worked extremely hard to get that back. Their backs were against the wall for the last eight weeks and we were playing extremely good football.”

The visitors trailed 2-0 at halftime, and later closed to within 9-6 early in the fourth on an 81-yard touchdown pass from Michael Stebbins to Keishawn Watson.

But a pair of touchdown runs by the Celtics over the final seven minutes proved to be too much to overcome.

Up to that point, the Tigers defense had done an outstanding job against Providence’s high-powered offense, which has scored 33 or more points in nine games this fall. The Tigers limited the Celtics to 11 first downs and 282 total yards, far below the norms.

Jake Kyllonen and Jasper Romeo each had interceptions.

“We had an outstanding defensive effort all year long,” Muhitch said. “It was a great year and this was just an outstanding opportunity for us.”

On offense, Wheaton Warrenville South was seriously hampered by injuries. Top rusher Jonathon Johnson, who gained 172 yards on the ground in a round-two win over Normal, was injured on his first carry and did not return. Fellow running back Michael Campos, already bothered by a hurt ankle, tried to give it a go but didn’t last long.

As a result, starting QB Josh Prueter ended up moving to running back with Stebbins taking over under center.

“When we had to use Josh (Prueter) at running back, we were scrambling,” Muhitch said. “If Jonathan had not gotten hurt, the game would have changed completely, especially with how well our defense was playing. The first play completely changed things for us.

“We had a big chance when it was 9-6 with 10 minutes left. We might have panicked a little bit offensively. But we just didn’t have the people to run the normal offense. So we had to kind of go to a pick-up offense of throw and catch and we did catch them once, but we needed some more plays like that to make it happen, and it just wasn’t going to be.”

Curt Herron and Dick Goss also contributed to this story.

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