WEST CHICAGO – On the first football play from scrimmage Friday, IC Catholic Prep senior wide receiver Sean Hipskind immediately turned and caught a pass from quarterback Khalil Saunders.
The play netted 11 yards down the left sideline.
A good start.
“We called the same play again,” Hipskind said.
This time, the result was a 69-yard touchdown.
That initiated another strong offensive game for the Knights, who won 48-13 at Wheaton Academy in the Metro Suburban Blue opener.
The Knights (3-0) amassed 563 total yards after entering the game averaging 46 points and 480 yards. They scored Friday’s final five touchdowns after the second TD pass by the inspired Warriors (2-1) closed to 21-13 with 9:21 until halftime.
“Offensively I feel like we read our reads well, we executed well. We played our game well and we can just take this and grow from it,” said Saunders, who threw for 263 yards and the one TD. “The coaches give us the play. I have to make my reads, trust my O-line and my wide receivers on the outside. They executed well so I had to keep throwing them the ball.”
Hipskind had six catches for 129 yards and Ryan Malek five for 53. Kyle Franklin also rushed for 141 yards and four more TDs.
“The kids are just taking the numbers, taking advantage [of situations]. It’s just them executing it,” ICCP coach Bill Krefft said.
This was Hipskind’s first touchdown of the season after an earlier one was called back. Last season, he had nine for the two-time defending Class 3A state champions. Like many Knights, Hipskind also goes both ways.
He also has additional responsibilities.
“I’ve changed from cornerback to safety because the team needs me there [defensively],” Hipskind said. “This year I’m [also] a senior captain so I think a lot of players look up to me.”
Saunders played quarterback last season until an injury. On Friday, Saunders completed his first 13 passes to six different receivers – including himself after the Warriors’ defensive line deflected the ball.
“I feel much more confident, especially after having half of a year under my belt at quarterback,” Saunders said. “I have great receivers on the outside. I can feel any of them the ball, and they’re going to come down with it.”
Saunders also brings the ability to scramble and run and did so with 27 yards, including a 7-yard TD run in the third quarter.
“I think he brings an aspect of the run game that is just a little bit more effective than [graduated C.J. West last season],” Krefft said. “Throwing the ball, he’s been throwing the heck out of it and doing a great job.”
One large number that frustrated Krefft was 175 penalty yards with six of the 14 of the penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. Wheaton Academy received one and had 42 penalty yards.
The first resulted in ICCP’s Khali Saunders, a Purdue recruit, being ejected with 4:41 left in the first quarter after Malek’s catch that went out of bounds into the Wheaton Academy sidelines. Khali Saunders delivered key downfield blocks on Hipskind’s game-opening receptions.
“Aside from the refs taking us away from doing what we wanted to do and throwing flags for things that weren’t there and deciding to dictate the game, our kids did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Krefft said. “They were busting their butt the whole game. They were finishing blocks.”
The defense allowed just 16 yards and two first downs the second half. Interceptions came from Steven Crady with an impressive one-hand pick and Jake Lytton. Wheaton Academy players were tended to on the field nine times during the game, five in the first quarter. Starting running back Cristian Carstens was lost early after returning the ensuing kickoff after Hipskind’s touchdown.
“I’m proud of our guys for fighting,” Wheaton Academy coach Brad Thornton said. “We knew we were going up against a great football team. This is the best IC team we’ve seen the past few years. I’m proud of them, especially with the number of guys we had going down and out. Our guys on the sidelines didn’t get discouraged by that.”
Khalil Saunders also temporarily left the game just before halftime when he cramped up after his 20-yard run to the 3. Franklin scored the next play. Saunders was ready by the second half. Tommy Ryan later returned at quarterback and scored the final TD on a 20-yard TD.
“I got some pickle juice in me,” Saunders said.