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Hinsdale

High school football: Bjorson's big play boosts Red Devils past Willowbrook

HINSDALE– The thrill of making a great catch may not be new for Matt Bjorson, but it never gets old.

The Hinsdale Central tight end has a knack for making the spectacular look routine – and he did it again Sept. 1.

The Indiana-bound Bjorson snagged a 28-yard touchdown pass from Matt Rush with 2:50 remaining in the third quarter. The play, on which Bjorson ripped a jump ball away from defensive back Nick Sabatino, was the final score in the Red Devils’ 27-21 West Suburban Conference crossover victory over Willowbrook.

“He’s a great player,” Hinsdale Central coach Dan Hartman said. “We try to get him the ball as much as we can.

“Probably need to get it to him a little more. We gave him a couple opportunities to make big plays in big situations and he made one.”

The back-and-forth game was tied three times until Bjorson’s catch, which came on third-and-14. Rush, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns, floated it up toward the left corner of the end zone.

“He’s really big, he’s fast and he jumped and made a play on the ball,” Rush said. “I had no doubt; I knew he was going to catch it.”

So did Bjorson. The 6-foot-3 senior had a five-inch height advantage on Sabatino.

“On my route, I knew he was  playing like six yards off, so I knew it was going to be a jump ball,” Bjorson said. “Even Rush said, ‘When you get in that position I’m going to throw you up the ball.’

“I knew I had to undercut him. I jumped over him and made the play. You’ve got to make those plays if you want your team to win.”

Bjorson, who had four catches for 58 yards, has made such plays before.

“It’s just exciting,” Bjorson said. “I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, so it’s nothing new. But now it’s what has to be done to win games.”

So where does this catch rank among his career highlights?

“That one was I think No. 1,” Bjorson said. “Our first home game last season I had one down in (the other) end zone where I went up one-handed, but to make it for a game-winner, it has to be No. 1.”

The Red Devils (1-1) won despite being outgained 406-250 and making a slew of penalties and poor special teams' mistakes. Rush tossed touchdown passes to J.T. Kolke and Garrett Oakey. Nick Biancalana returned a blocked punt for another score.

“It’s important for our team to get this victory, but we’ve got a lot of work to do on our O-line and everything else,” Bjorson said. “But we showed that we can make big plays in big times and that’s all that matters if you want to go far.”

Willowbrook (1-1) twice had the lead, scoring 61 seconds into the game after the Red Devils failed to fall on the opening kickoff. Jack Jessen rushed 32 times for 174 yards and two scores and John Taylor fired a 26-yard touchdown pass to Martique Barksdale.

But the Warriors came up empty on their final seven possessions, which included a pair of turnovers. Hinsdale Central’s Vincent Zelisko sealed the win with an interception at midfield with 25 seconds left.

“I think that’s the one positive note in that we found a way to pull it out at the end,” Hartman said. “We’ve got to get better.”

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