ADDISON, Ill. -- In a turnover-plagued game filled with momentum swings, the Addison Trail Blazers held on to beat the previously unbeaten No. 6 Downers Grove South Mustangs 20-14 and win the West Suburban Gold Championship.
The Blazers defense set the tone immediately, sacking Mustangs quarterback A.J. Simoncelli and forcing a fumble on the first play from scrimmage. It was a hint of what was to come, as the entire first half was an intense defensive battle.
The first-half score came on an interception returned for a touchdown by Addison Trail senior defensive lineman Tom Caputo. The ball hit the back an offensive lineman’s helmet, hung in the air and then landed right in the palms of the 6-1, 205-pound lineman.
“All I remember is that I saw the ball hit off the helmet, looked up and it was right there,” Caputo said.
Caputo and the rest of the Blazers’ front seven held Mustangs star senior running back Josh Williams to just 12 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Williams finished with 20 carries for just 47 yards and a touchdown.
Addison Trail coach Paul Parpet said their focus all week was on stopping Williams and the vicious Mustangs running attack.
“Our defense did what they do well,” Parpet said. “They flew around and took him out of the game.”
The Blazers (8-1) moved the ball in the first half, but had drives cut short by missed field goals and two interceptions. They dominated the third quarter with a long, methodical 13-play, 80-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard touchdown by senior running back Anthony Messina.
The next Blazers drive ended in a weak-side screen pass from quarterback Trevor Bermingham to Messina, who powered his way 34 yards into the end zone to put them on top 20-0 with 8:15 left in the game.
“We just put in the play this week,” Messina said. “It worked all week in practice so I knew I was going to be open.”
But the Mustangs (8-1) weren’t done just yet. They answered with a nine-play, 61-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Williams.
The Mustangs recovered the following on-side kick and two plays later Simoncelli hooked up with senior receiver Marco Scalzetti for a 51-yard touchdown to make it a 20-14 game with 4:42 left.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Mustangs offense got the ball at their 9-yard line with 3:39 left and all the momentum in the world.
“I was shaking,” Addison Trail senior defensive back Delricien Smith said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
But on the second play of that drive, Simoncelli dropped back and was picked off by senior defensive back Greg Schultz to seal the win for Addison Trail.
Players of the game: Senior inside linebackers Kevin Kent and Mike Imperiale did an outstanding job chasing down Williams and jamming the middle, preventing any possible cutback lanes. Williams’ longest run of the day didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter and was only for nine yards.
Stat of the game: Coming into this matchup, Williams was a running machine, racking up over 1,600 yards so far this season. The top-ranked Blazers defense held him to only 47 yards on 20 carries.
It was over when: Down by six points with just about three minutes to go, Simoncelli was picked off by Schultz to end the Mustangs’ hope at a comeback.
Quote of the day: “Our defensive line is small but they got the heart of a lion. They just clogged the middle and he (Williams) had nowhere to bounce. It gave us time for everyone else to come around and make a tackle.” -- Blazers defensive back Delricien Smith