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South Elgin's Tyler Christensen scores the first of his two touchdowns Saturday against Metea Valley. | Michael Jarecki ~ For Sun-Times Media
South Elgin coach Dale Schabert says his team has been “hardened in the fire” this season.
The Storm displayed this Saturday by seizing back the lead once it — and momentum — had been taken away by Metea Valley, and South Elgin went on to a 28-21 Upstate Eight Valley homecoming victory behind the passing of Robert Cuda and a ball-hawking defense.
“When they tied it up, we were still feeling pretty confident in ourselves,” Cuda said.
South Elgin seemed on the verge of taking a commanding 28-13 third-quarter lead, only to be denied on downs by Metea Valley at the 9-yard line. The Mustangs promptly marched 91 yards to Cameron Wilcox’s 3-yard touchdown run and game-tying two-point conversion run out of the wildcat formation.
However, Cuda and the Storm offense needed only three plays to come back with the game’s final points. The go-ahead TD came when the junior QB avoided the blitz by stepping to his left as wide receiver Tyler Christensen adjusted his route to get behind the secondary. Christensen hauled in a 43-yard TD strike for a 28-21 lead with 10:21 to play.
“I think a couple times he got knocked down and made great passes,” said Schabert about Cuda, who went 14-of-31 for 229 yards. “I’m real proud of him. He did a nice job. It was a nice drive when we answered.”
The Storm defense also showed its mettle after the go-ahead TD. Three times South Elgin (3-2, 2-1) stopped the Mustangs (1-4, 0-3) to protect the lead, twice on takeaways and once on downs. Linebacker Nathan Marotta produced the clinching turnover with an interception of Mustangs quarterback Blaise Bell near midfield on the game’s final play. Earlier, linebacker Chris Bingham stuffed Mustangs running back Andre Lagasca for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-one at the 50, and made an interception near mid-field with 1:58 remaining that all but guaranteed the win.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time on both of them,” he said. “I was blitzing on the run and ran around the guard and he (the back) ran right into my arms. On the pace, we had a blitz called so I picked up (the blitzer’s coverage) and (Bell) threw the ball right to me.”
Metea Valley got 131 rushing yards from Wilcox on 29 attempts including a 7-yard first-half TD run, and also had a spectacular first-half, 33-yard punt return TD from Alex Hagemaster, but couldn’t climb over the proverbial hump.
“It’s kind of been the story of our year,” coach Ben Kleinhans said. “We get all the way back, we get to that point, then we do something wrong on one play and it hurts us. We can’t get all the way back.
“It’s about game-winning plays with us. We’re there, we’re right there every week. We’ve just got to make more of those game-winning, game-defining plays.”
The game-winning TD wasn’t the first time South Elgin answered back.
Christensen had opened the scoring with a 61-yard cutback TD run on an end-around with 5:15 left in the first quarter. But Metea got Wilcox’s and Hagemaster’s TDs. Cuda directed a scoring drive in the two-minute offense that went 59 yards, including 11 yards for the go-ahead points 23 seconds before halftime on a toss to wide receiver Joe Crivolio (6 catches,108 yards). Jeff Broger broke a 35-yard TD run 3:06 into the third quarter to pad the lead to 21-13.
“We throw a lot at the kids,” Schabert said. “It all fits together. But they’ve got to go execute.
“They do a nice job of seeing the blitzes and picking up their adjustments. The kids, they work real hard at it.”
SOUTH ELGIN 28, METEA VALLEY 21
S – Tyler Christensen 61 run (Matt Bree kick) 5:15, 1st
M – Alex Hagemaster 33 punt return (kick failed) :00, 1st
M – Cameron Wilcox 7 run (Nick Dodsen kick) 5:43, 2nd
S – Joe Crivolio 11 pass from Robert Cuda (Bree kick) :23, 2nd
S – Jeff Broger 35 run (Bree kick) 8:54, 3rd
M – Wilcox 1 run (Wilcox run) 11:48, 4th
S – Christensen 43 pass from Cuda (Bree kick) 10:22, 4th
Team Stats M S
First downs 11 14
Comp.-att.-int. 11-21-3 14-31-1
Passing yards 84 229
Rushing att.-yards 40-148 20-111
Total yards 232 340
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Metea Valley – Wilcox 29-131, Blaise Bell 7-10, Chase Nelson 2-9, Andre Lagasca 2-(minus) 2.
South Elgin – Broger 11-45, Cuda 7-2, Christensen 1-61, Chris Bingham 1-4.
Metea Valley – Bell 11-21-3-84.
Metea Valley – Hagemaster 5-25, Wilcox 1-0, Blaze Miller 4-49, Nelson 1-10.
South Elgin – Crivolio 7-115, Christensen 3-76, John Stanko 3-15, Broger 1-23.