DARIEN — Hinsdale South lit the fuse on the rivalry cannon trophy after its season finale win over Downers Grove South on Friday night, and while players readied themselves for a bang, the resulting noise was more of a pop, eliciting laughter from an already happy group.
The Hornets are hoping to make a much bigger noise in the playoffs.
Hinsdale South (7-2, 5-1 WSC Gold) rode its defense to arguably its biggest win of the season so far, defeating the Mustangs (6-3, 4-2) 7-0 on Friday in a West Suburban Gold home game. The Hornets recorded their most regular-season wins since going 8-1 in 2005.
It was the second shutout of the season for the Hornets, who gave up 20 or less points in all but one game this season. The 122 points allowed were the second-fewest in the conference behind WSC Gold-champ Addison Trail, which gave up 111.
Senior quarterback Rob Regan said Hinsdale South is where it is — headed back to the playoffs after a year absence — because of the work of the defense.
“They are unbelievable,” Regan said. “They amaze me every time we go out there. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys over there.”
Regan had the game’s lone touchdown on a 1-yard keeper on fourth down with 6:43 left in the first half. The Hornets went 83 yards on the drive.
The victory, the team’s first over an opponent with a winning record after going 0-2 prior, gives Hinsdale South a ton of confidence going into the playoffs, senior linebacker Jake Hynek said, especially with it being such a close game against another team moving on.
“This was our big-game win,” he said. “We needed this. It gives us all the confidence in the world that we can do whatever we want. We can beat the good teams and we can beat them in a close game.”
Hynek spearheaded the effort on defense, coming up with the big tackles against a Mustangs team that came in winning five straight. Hinsdale South shut down Downers South, limiting it to 81 total offensive yards in the first half. Things didn’t get better in the second half, with the Mustangs going 1 of 4 on third-down opportunities and recording 55 yards.
Jacob Baker, Downers South’s star senior running back, had 48 yards on 11 carries at the break, with 22 coming on one play in the first quarter.
“They (defense) has been outstanding all year,” coach Mike Barry said. “We’ve had a couple of hiccups here and there, but for the most part, they’ve been stellar all year and a real strength. I’m real proud of all of them.”
The victory was especially rewarding after the Mustangs won 34-7 in last season’s finale between the two teams, ending the Hornets’ slim playoff chances.
“Obviously it’s momentum,” Barry said “The kids are drinking the Kool-Aid, They are playing with enthusiasm and emotion and they understand you have to come to work every day.”