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High school football: York finds a way for comeback win against Leyden

York running back Keith Freeman finds running room on Sept. 4 in a home game against Leyden. The Dukes scored on their final two possessions for a 21-14 win.
York running back Keith Freeman finds running room on Sept. 4 in a home game against Leyden. The Dukes scored on their final two possessions for a 21-14 win.

ELMHURST – Nothing focuses the mind like staring at a fourth-quarter deficit and watching the clock tick down.

York’s offensive stars realized something had to be done when the Dukes were trailing Leyden by eight points at home on Sept. 4.

“The offensive captains pulled the team together and said it’s now or never,” quarterback Johnny DiCanio said.

Running back Lucas Alexander ignited the comeback and DiCanio and Matt Wozny punctuated a remarkable turn of events as the Dukes scored two touchdowns in less than three minutes for 15 unanswered points in a thrilling 21-14 comeback victory in the West Suburban Conference crossover game.

DiCanio (17-of-25, 236 yards, two touchdowns) completed the comeback with a 23-yard scoring strike to a diving Wozny in the right corner of the end zone that completed a six-play, 61-yard scoring possession with 53 seconds remaining.

The comeback featured many parts.

The quick and explosive Alexander (17 carries, 106 yards) ripped off bursts of 17, nine and 30 yards as the Dukes (1-1) engineered a seven-play, 70-yard drive on the previous possession. His 30-yard burst around the right end put the ball at the 1-yard line. Keith Freeman scored one play later. 

York coach Matt Monken said the Dukes adjusted their blocking, which triggered open spaces for Alexander.

“We made a good adjustment on our blocking scheme on the outside,” Monken said. “It’s what makes veer option football great. You have your adjustments, and once it’s there everything works out great.”

On the two-point conversion, DiCanio bought extra time and slipped outside the pocket before finding fullback Santiago Vazquez for a pass in the left flat.

DiCanio’s ability to improvise was the telling feature of the night. On the opening possession, he juked several Leyden linemen and reversed pivot to find a streaking Wozny (7 catches, 78 yards, two touchdowns) for a 34-yard scoring play. His scramble and 42-yard pass to Grant Melion was the defining play of the game-winning drive.

“The whole time coach Monken was telling me to get the ball out of my hands as quickly as I could,” DiCanio said. “I guess that’s just how it turns out sometimes.”

Leyden running back David DeMarais (17 carries, 127 yards) broke a 75-yard touchdown run for the Eagles’ 7-6 halftime lead. Quarterback Michael Wilms threw a 21-yard touchdown to Joe Cubon on the opening possession of the third quarter. 

York’s defense limited the Eagles (1-1) to just 12 yards on their last five possessions. Defensive end Christopher McCoy registered four tackles for loss.

“Our defense came to play,” Monken said. “We haven’t really given up long drives, just some big plays. 

“They kept us in the game.”

Week 3 matchup

Who: York at Glenbard West

When: 1 p.m. Sept. 12

Where: Duchon Field, 670 W. Crescent Blvd., Glen Ellyn

2014 records: York 1-1, Glenbard West 2-0

Outlook: The Hilltoppers have dominated the West Suburban Silver in recent years and are on track to do so again this season after impressive wins against Bolingbrook and Hinsdale South to open the season. Running back Sam Brodner is one of the top backs in the state.

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