ELMHURST – Aurora Central Catholic and IC Catholic Prep both came out trying to establish a running game Saturday in the opening Suburban Christian Gold contest for both teams, and not without good reason.
Of the 11 passes the two teams attempted in the second half at Lewis Stadium, four ended in interceptions, including one that proved pivotal in IC Catholic’s 21-14 victory.
With the score tied at 7-all early in the third quarter, ACC (2-1 overall, 0-1 SCC Gold) appeared to gain some momentum when sophomore linebacker Sam Ariano killed the Knights’ opening drive of the half by picking off quarterback Jack Copher. But IC Catholic defensive end Michael Perrone changed the complexion of the game moments later when he intercepted a pass by ACC senior quarterback Kyle Reilly and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown.
“When your defense is coming up with big stops for you and you can’t take advantage of it, that’s ultimately what’s going to be the costly deal,” Chargers’ coach Brian Casey said. “Give credit to IC. Their kids made plays.”
Perrone acknowledged after the game that all he was trying to do on the play was to bat the ball down.
“I went up and stuck up my hands and came down with it,” he said. “The guy who tried to block me was off me … so I kept running and got in the end zone and looked around like, ‘Where’s the flag?’ I couldn’t believe I was there.”
Another interception led to another touchdown for the Knights early in the fourth quarter.
Randy Leslie gathered in a deflected pass thrown by Matt Schaefer and returned it 66 yards to the Chargers’ 4-yard line. From there, Copher hit Max Eichhorn in the left flat for a touchdown that put IC Catholic up, 21-7.
The Chargers tried to battle back, cutting the deficit to 21-14 on a 17-yard run by junior Hunter Fiorito with 4:15 left in the game.
The Knights appeared on the verge of salting the game away with just over two minutes to play when Eichhorn appeared to score on a 2-yard plunge, but in the melee at the goal line that confused players and officials alike, the ACC defense finally came away with the football.
“They ran pretty much an iso [isolation],” Ariano said. “The guard came up to block me and [assistant] coach [Chris] Goryl just tells us to blow it up, so I blew up the guard and I was the first guy there and then I think [defensive back] Pat Canning came around and stripped it and then one of our linemen picked it up.”
The Chargers moved the ball out to their own 40, but a 4th-and-5 pass attempt by Schaefer fell incomplete.
Schaefer played the entire fourth quarter at quarterback, but Casey said it was not because of any ineffectiveness on the part of Reilly.
“It certainly wasn’t the interception,” Casey said. “We had a couple different turnovers, a couple different three-and-outs, and we were just trying to get a little bit of a spark in some way.”
Reilly attempted just two passes in the first half, but his one completion went 33 yards for a touchdown to Julian Rios. That gave the Chargers a 7-0 lead. It might have been 14-0 were it not for a fumble inside the IC Catholic 5 on ACC’s opening drive of the game.
“You’ve got to score when you get inside the 2-yard line,” Casey said. “We didn’t do that, and that was a huge boost for them.”
Casey said the Chargers outworked the Knights and were the more physical team, a fact reflected by ACC’s dominance in the running game. The Chargers rolled up 264 yards on the ground compared with 120 for IC Catholic.
Ariano wasn’t ready to lay all the blame for the defeat on the mistakes of the offense.
“It’s a team game,” Ariano said. “We certainly have things to work on as far as defense. We still gave up a touchdownm and that’s not acceptable at our school. … We’ll just get ready to practice hard and get ready for Chicago Christian next week.”
IC CATHOLIC PREP 21, AURORA CENTRAL CATHOLIC 14
ACC 7 0 0 7 – 14
IC 0 7 7 7 – 21
HOW THEY SCORED
A – Rios 33 pass from Reilly (Anaya kick), :59
I – Rowell 24 run (Copher kick), 5:07
I – Perrone 37 interception return (Copher kick), 8:10
I – Eichhorn 4 pass from Copher (Copher kick), 10:49
A – Fiorito 17 run (Anaya kick), 4:15
RUSHING – ACC: Rios 15-89, Ekstrom 2-18, Padilla 3-22, Reilly 2-minus 11, Bohr 9-39, Fiorito 9-62, Schaefer 12-45. Totals: 52-264. IC: Leslie 11-42, Eichhorn 3-2, Epting 4-42, Rowell 9-33, Rose 1-minus 2, Copher 5-3. Totals: 33-120.
PASSING – ACC: Reilly 2-4-1-35, Schaefer 1-5-1-8. IC: Copher 10-15-1-133, Epting 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING – ACC: Rios 1-33, Schaefer 1-2. IC: Rose 1-12, Placey 1-14, Eichhorn 2-19, Epting 3-38, Guinan 1-15, Leslie 1-minus 3, Brinkman 1-38.
Total offense: Aurora Central Catholic 307, IC Catholic 253