Derek Kumerow and South Elgin definitely weren’t used to this kind of game.
Shut out for a half. Engaged in a low-scoring defensive struggle.
“We’re used to blowing teams out,” said Kumerow, a junior. “But Bartlett, that’s a good team over there.”
In a U-46 rivalry game with postseason implications for both sides, South Elgin scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and became playoff-eligible with a hard-fought 21-7 Upstate Eight Valley win over Bartlett at Millenium Field.
It’s the first postseason berth for South Elgin (5-3, 4-2) since 2010, and third in the school’s 10-year history.
Amazingly, a Storm offense that averages 44 points did it despite being shut out for a half for the first time all year.
“That was shocking, a little difficult to stomach,” Storm coach Pat Pistorio said, “but the kids persevered.”
Kyle Ware ran for 106 yards and three touchdowns for South Elgin, which had managed just 60 total yards in the first half.
Ware’s 5-yard TD tied it 7-7 with 4:27 left in the third quarter. Then, in the game’s biggest play, Kumerow intercepted an ill-fated Bartlett pass to set up South Elgin at midfield midway through the fourth quarter.
“Desperate situation there. We needed a play,” Kumerow said. “I saw the quarterback rolling out. As soon as he threw it, I knew I had it.”
Three Ware runs later, the Storm running back rumbled to a 29-yard go-ahead score, carrying a few Bartlett defenders with him as he crossed the end zone.
“That’s the offseason weight room right there,” said Ware, who tacked on an insurance TD with a minute left.
The loss ended the playoff hopes for Bartlett (3-5, 2-4), which finishes its season against East Aurora. With South Elgin playing Waubonsie Valley next week, both teams had this one circled as must-haves for their playoff lives.
“I’m proud of the kids, proud of the seniors. It just wasn’t meant to be,” Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said. “We still have one left but this was the one we wanted badly.”
Bartlett controlled the game for a half with its ground game and defense, running 34 plays to South Elgin’s 18 and outgaining the Storm 224-60. Nolan Bernat’s 57-yard TD off-tackle run in the waning moments of the first half had the Hawks ahead 7-0, but it could have been a wider margin.
Bartlett twice had drives stall past midfield and also missed a 27-yard field goal.
It proved to hurt, the Hawks managing just 53 yards of offense in the second half.
“We were moving the ball, and our defense played a good three and a half quarters before it got away from us,” Meaney said. “It wasn’t for a lack of effort.”
Bernat ran for 118 yards on 17 carries and Bartlett quarterback Brenner Wallace was 12-for-23 for 94 yards, intercepted three times.
South Elgin quarterback Hayden Nelson was 14-for-25 for 146 yards and one interception.