Westmont junior receiver Michael Thompson wasn’t expected to play defense this season.
On Friday, he was everywhere in the second half.
Thompson recovered two turnovers, nearly scored a special teams touchdown, caught one huge pass and even returned from being helped off the field.
“I just had a cramp and got stretched out on the sideline,” Thompson said. “I had to come back in.”
Thompson wasn’t alone. Together, the Sentinels rallied for one of their sweetest victories in recent memory – 18-14 over Interstate Eight Small rival Lisle at Benedictine University in the battle for the Old Plank Road Trophy.
“It’s a turning point in our program,” Thompson said.
“No one expected us to win and we came in and beat one of the best teams in our conference,” senior quarterback Brenton Baldwin said. “We got that plaque. It means so much for me personally. I’m so emotional right now.”
The past two seasons, Westmont (3-4, 1-4 in Interstate Eight Small) lost to Lisle (3-4, 2-3) by a combined score of 92-0. This season's Sentinels came into Friday on a four-game losing streak, by a combined 165-29.
“But we’re a family. We rallied together and look what happened.” Thompson said. “It was a team effort totally.”
The Sentinels had 12 net yards at halftime, yet only trailed 14-6. In the second half, Baldwin passed for 103 yards, fueled first by a 53-yard TD strike to junior Troy Schlicher. Westmont also forced four of Lisle's five turnovers in the second half.
Lisle quarterback Jay McGrath was injured for the second half and Jared Hunter only rushed for 87 of his 220 yards.
“We’ve talked about this from the summer, trying to change the culture of what it’s been in the past,” first-year Westmont coach Dan Woulfe said. “Lisle is a huge rivalry game but this is what’s going to propel this program forward. I hope (our players) saw what they did, which is really lay the foundation for what’s to come.”
Two-way play is the Westmont norm. Woulfe said the roster is at around 17 or 18 kids after promoting three junior varsity players. Standout senior center/linebacker Tanner Plowman’s stopped Hunter on fourth-and-1 at the 12 in the first quarter to set the defensive tone. Other Lisle drives stalled at the Westmont 7, 20 and 23. The Lions’ final drive reached the 32 before four incomplete passes.
“I can’t even put it into words. I’m just so happy,” Plowman said. “It’s my last year. It means everything to me.”
A basketball and baseball player, Schlicher is a football newcomer.
“It’s one of my favorite sports right now, maybe the favorite. I love the adrenaline rush,” Schlicher said.
Senior TJ Buesser had two interceptions, his first on the opening drive followed by Baldwin’s 11-yard TD pass to Jaden West. Baldwin’s 5-yard run with 1:03 left in the third quarter proved the game winner after Thompson’s only reception on fourth-and-3.
The drive started after Thompson recovered a muffed punt at the 18.
“I thought I could run it back (for a touchdown) but apparently you can’t,” Thompson said. “The offensive and defensive line deserve all of the credit for this one. If they couldn’t block, we wouldn’t have won.”