||More Sports||Sign up||School Finder|
Elmwood Park's defense forced six turnovers and secured a spot in the state playoffs with a 24-20 victory over Fenton Friday night in Elmwood Park.
Despite five interceptions and a fumble recovery, the host Tigers (6-2, 2-1 Metro Suburban Conference) had to stave off a late Bison comeback.
With the Tigers seemingly in control, up 24-12 with under two minutes to play, the Bison (2-6, 1-2) threw a scare into the Tigers by using a trick play to score on an 80-yard kickoff return and record the two-point conversion to pull within four points.
The Tigers recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock for the victory.
“We've been thinking about this opportunity since we were freshman – making the playoffs and winning the conference,” senior offensive lineman Connor Murphy said.
“We've always talked about what it would be like to play in the state tournament and we've accomplished one goal and can be conference champs if we beat Ridgewood next week.”
Elmwood Park never trailed in the game. After a scoreless first quarter, Elmwood Park got on the board on the first play of the second quarter when senior quarterback Patrick McNulty hooked up with Chad Ramiro on an 8-yard touchdown pass. David Benavidez’s 20-yard field made it 10-0 at halftime.
Every time Fenton appeared to be moving toward a score, the Elmwood Park defense came up with a big play to halt the drive. Junior Trent Woods had two interceptions and seniors Aaron Cook, Chad Ramiro and Carlos Sandoval each recorded a pick.
Elmwood Park’s James Gonzalez rushed for 84 yards on 15 carries and scored on second half touchdown runs of five and one yard. Benavidez returned from an ankle injury and racked up 105 yards on 25 carries.
Tigers head coach Luis Arroyo credited his offensive line with doing an incredible job all year long no matter who carried the ball.
“These kids (three running backs) have not been completely healthy all year long,” he said. “One guy goes down, the next guy goes in, he goes down, but we never panicked, never got nervous because every time we sent the next guy in he did the job.
“You have to give a lot of credit to our offensive line. These Tigers are warriors. No matter who was in there they did the job. This team, the tailbacks, the line, they all have so much heart. Today was a real storybook win for this squad. I can't be more proud of these kids.”