WHEATON– For a guy who doesn’t play on offense, Joe Ives sure gets his hands on the football a lot.
The Wheaton Warrenville South defensive back has proven to have sticky fingers, picking off five passes in the first three weeks of the season.
He also is the holder on extra-points and field goals, a side job which keeps him extremely busy considering the Tigers have outscored their opposition 102-3 and kicker Jack Olsen broke the state record by making eight field goals in the season-opening win over Metea Valley.
Ives, a 5-foot-10, 162-pound senior, is one of only three WW South defenders with previous varsity experience – but he’s been the linchpin of a terrific defense.
Ives had two more interceptions, one of which he returned 48 yards for a touchdown, in Friday’s 35-3 victory over Geneva at Red Grange Field. The win was noteworthy because it came in the DuKane Conference debut for both schools and gave the Tigers (3-0, 1-0) more victories than they had in any of the past three seasons.
“It’s thrilling,” Ives said. “It’s a new conference and I think this group is just tired of being 2-7.
“We’re trying to change the culture at this school and I think that’s a big them. Our theme is “Earned, not given” and we’re really just trying to earn these victories with the hard work.”
That’s the type of attitude WW South coach Ron Muhitch wants to see.
“This is a really nice group of kids and they’re competitors,” Muhitch said. “They want to do well.”
The Tigers are doing well in all phases of the game. The defense has forced 13 turnovers and the offense, despite failing to score a touchdown in the opener, has not committed a turnover. The special teams, led by kicker/punter Jack Olsen, has been outstanding.
“We’re back to the point where our kids believe they can play with somebody,” Muhitch said. “They have a belief of learning how to win and feeling that winning spirit again.
“That’s been missing and that’s what happens when you go 2-7 for three years."
Junior Jake Arthurs capped the opening drive of each half with short touchdown runs, including a seven-yard run that triggered a 21-point third quarter.
Arthurs, who gained 59 yards on 13 carries and now has scored five touchdowns, had gaping holes on both of his scoring runs.
“The past two weeks the offensive line has put in a lot of work,” Arthurs said. “Ten out of our 11 [offensive starters], I think, are first-year [varsity] players,so it means everything to our confidence. Hopefully we’re going to keep rolling.”
The Vikings (0-3, 0-1) provided the Tigers’ with their stiffest test yet. Brendan Krohe carried 25 times for a game-high 100 yards for the visitors, who became the first team to score on the Tigers when Reilly Waldoch booted a 38-yard field on the last play of the first half to pull Geneva within 14-3.
“Geneva is much better than their 0-3 record,” Muhitch said. “They’re a tough football team and I think their ball-control, power football gave us some trouble.
“I knew they would be a little more of a physical test than what we’ve had so far and we needed that.”
The Tigers passed with flying colors. Ives intercepted Geneva quarterback Alex Williams on consecutive drives in the third quarter, with his pick-six increasing the lead to 28-3.
“I can’t take those moments for granted,” Ives said. “It’s a great thing.
“I really have to thank my D-line because every single time I get a pick it’s because of them. Also, I know if I’m not making that pick, somebody else is making the play.”
The Tigers are making plenty of plays, which is leading some to speculate that the winning ways of old are here to stay.
“Everyone in the stands, everyone in the town is changing their views on us,” Arthurs said. “For us, now we know we’re for real and everybody knows we’re for real.”