Downers North Dances to Victory

Article excerpt

Byline: Daily Herald Report

They were dancing in the street on the north side of Downers Grove Friday night.


The Downers Grove North Trojans band was serenading its football team, which happily did a victory dance to the tune of the school song on its way out of Carstens Field.

The Trojans' 21-20 win over cross-town rival Downers Grove South left the victors euphoric, and surprisingly energetic enough to continue dancing off the field.

"After a game like this, you feel no pain," said quarterback Brock Cuchna, who did the most dancing on what may be an early grave for Downers South, which fell to an uncharacteristic 0-3.

Cuchna (29 rushes, 123 yards, 2 TDs) led a Trojans offense that dominated time of possession by a 3-to-1 ratio. The Trojans (1-2) also outgained the Mustangs 305 to 133.

Still, despite the statistical advantage by Downers North, the Mustangs, who were playing without their injured starting quarterback Gary Higham, had a chance to win for the second straight week if a 2-point conversion went their way with 1:32 to play.

After giving up a game-breaking 2-pointer a week ago, Downers South went for the win following a Rodney Adams touchdown pulled the visitors within 1 point.

Without hesitation, Mustangs coach John Belskis called on Adams again on a sweep right. But the Trojans defense downed Adams short of the goal line - achieving their goal.

Defensive tackle Brian Strock was credited with the stop, but the senior who had beaten his cross-town rivals for the first time, spread the credit around.

"I think our whole defense was in on the play," he said. "This is huge for us, we haven't beaten South for three years. We can go a long way from this."

"I said last night, in that situation that was our play," Belskis said. "Their player just did a better job. We needed a hero and we didn't have any. We haven't had any heroes in three weeks."

Downers Grove North had an entire offense of heroes that held the ball for 39 plays and 19:06 in taking a 14-7 halftime lead, with scoring drives of 7:58 and 8:03 capped off by Cuchna scores.

But when the Mustangs answered the first Trojans touchdown with a 12-second answer on an 88-yard kickoff return by Pat Marek, Downers Grove North coach Pete Ventrelli knew his team was in for another cross-town battle.

"That's a typical North-South game. We did what we had to do, playing within ourselves. They come right back, but controlling the clock was big for us," he said.

So was converting fourth-down conversions. The Trojans made good on 4 of 5 of them, including a fourth-and-1 from their own 44-yard line with 6:23 left.

The Trojans, who didn't punt all night, originally sent their kicking team on the field before reconsidering and converting. Three plays later, Eric Walton (20 carries, 129 yards) rambled 48 yards for what would hold up to be the winning score.

- Chris Wolak

Elmwood Park 30, Fenton 28

What Bob Ciancio would have given for just 30 seconds more. Or even a couple of measly yards.

It wasn't so much for the Fenton coach to ask for after his team had given up so much - like the football, for starters - in a 30-28 loss to Elmwood Park.

Who can blame the coach for thinking about what might have been if not for the Bison's four fumbles, blocked punt and critical penalties (10 in all) for 78 yards.

"We just had too many penalties tonight," Ciancio said. "Turnovers were costly at the wrong time. It just didn't work in our favor. We need to become a more disciplined team."

Though Fenton was given a chance to overcome its early mistakes with a desperate, final-minute drive, the Bison fell short when quarterback Jason Smith's throw was knocked away on fourth down.

The Tigers killed the Bisons with big plays, namely on a couple of touchdown throws from quarterback Denny Passarelli to receiver Mike Beckett from 28 and 19 yards out. …