PARK RIDGE — On the football game’s first offensive play Friday, Maine South senior receiver Jarrett Gustafson dropped a would-be touchdown pass.
He spent the rest of the game making amends.
Gustafson finished with six receptions for 100 yards, and he scored on a 59-yard strike from junior quarterback Brian Collis in the first minute of the fourth quarter. It was Gustafson’s first touchdown of the season and it helped the Hawks earn a 65-21 Central Suburban South win over Niles West.
“I feel like that first pass was uncharacteristic of me because I take pride in being a consistent player,” Gustafson said. “It was a great pass by Brian, and I just missed it. It was good to get one back for him later in the game.”
Gustafson was one of several Hawks to have a big game. Collis finished 30-for-43 for 438 yards. He threw four TDs and had one interception. His first six completions went to six different players, and he found eight in the game. Senior receiver Vinny Labus caught seven balls for 114 yards and a TD. Senior receiver Tommy Bazarek had five receptions for 96 yards and a TD, and senior running back Justin Fahey finished with five catches for 77 yards and a TD. Fahey rushed for two scores.
After Gustafson didn’t get much playing time as a junior, Maine South coach Dave Inserra said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the 6-2 receiver this season. But Inserra said Gustafson has been a welcome addition to the offense’s arsenal.
“He’s been one of our go-to guys, especially as someone who can make those tough catches over the middle,” Inserra said. “The biggest thing for him was to get in the weight room and get stronger, which is something he did.”
Maine South offensive coordinator Charlie Bliss said he could see flashes of something special from Gustafson last year. Bliss said Gustafson’s drop in the opening minute of the game was his first of the year.
“He runs routes very well, and he’s a big target,” Bliss said. “We knew he was capable of having this kind of a game and season.”
Collis didn’t wait long to go back to Gustafson after that first incompletion. Facing fourth-and-10 on Niles West’s 30-yard line, Collis connected with Gustafson for 17 yards. The No. 4-ranked Hawks (7-0, 3-0) scored four plays later on Fahey’s 1-yard run and went ahead 7-0 at 9:31 of the first quarter.
Five of Gustafson’s six catches went for either a first down or a touchdown.
“I don’t know if this was my best game or not,” he said. “I pride myself on being consistent and doing whatever they ask of me, whether it’s catching passes or making blocks. I just try not to get too high or too low.”
Gustafson did admit it was nice to contribute in the win against the Wolves (5-2, 2-1). His father, Gary Gustafson, is Niles West’s longtime baseball coach, and Jarrett Gustafson said he knows several of the players on the football team.
“Yeah, it’s always good to play well against them,” Jarrett Gustafson said.
• Sophomore Matt Galanopoulos was the star for the Wolves, scoring two of his team’s three TDs. His first came on an 85-yard kickoff return midway through the first quarter. In the second quarter, he scored on a 78-yard run. Galanopoulos, the younger brother of senior quarterback Tommy Galanopoulos, finished with 283 all-purpose yards.
• Niles West pieced together an impressive offensive series in the third quarter, scoring on a 15-play, 77-yard drive that ate up more than five minutes of the clock. The Wolves showed their balance by running eight times and throwing seven. Senior running back Brandon Costantino scored on a 1-yard run.
• With 37 playoff points, the Wolves should be in good shape to earn their third consecutive trip to the postseason, even with five wins. Niles West closes out the season against 6-1 New Trier and 5-2 Glenbrook South.