SKOKIE — The Niles West football coaching staff challenged Matt Metz at halftime.
Having put the ball on the ground during a punt return — a turnover that would lead to a touchdown — Metz hung his head low heading into the locker room on Friday night.
The coaches put it simply: “No one cares you dropped that punt. What are you going to do next?”
Metz responded in a big way. After Niles West snagged a stop on fourth-and-goal with just over two minutes left in the game, the Wolves orchestrated a 90-yard scoring drive — capped by a 13-yard go-ahead touchdown grab from Metz — to earn a 35-31 Central Suburban South victory over Glenbrook South on Friday. By winning its sixth game of the regular season, Niles West clinched a playoff berth.
The score wasn’t the only big play of Metz’s night. After his touchdown, the Titans got the ball back with 1:32 left on the clock. They drove to near midfield with the help of running back Ryan Janczak, but Metz sealed the victory by intercepting a deep pass over the middle.
“He gets the touchdown, snags the interception at the end,” Niles West coach Scott Baum said. “It’s just fun. It’s nice to see good things happen to good kids.”
Metz finished the game with 49 yards on five catches. He was just one of the many playmakers who shined against the Titans (6-3, 2-3). Quarterback Tommy Galanopoulos finished with 346 combined yards — 107 rushing, 219 passing — and two scores. Matt Galanopoulos hauled in 102 yards on seven catches and a touchdown.
For the Wolves (6-3, 3-2), the offensive output comes just at the right time. They came into Friday having dropped their past two games. With their biggest playmaker, Quran Spillman, lost to a broken leg, the Wolves’ offense is hitting its stride just as the team readies for the playoffs next week, Baum said
“These kids, they put so much work into this week, and they got results,” Baum said.
Niles West’s Brandon Costantino put the Wolves within three points with a 1-yard rushing score in the fourth, setting the stage for Metz’s late-game heroics.
• The Titans’ offense proved to be just as stout on Friday. Glenbrook South quarterback Fitz Stadler went 19-for-31 with two interceptions and a score. Janczak led the Titans on the ground, rushing for 129 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns.
• Chase Daniel was the biggest Titans threat on the outside. He caught a 24-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal to give Glenbrook South a 24-21 lead with 7:41 left in the third quarter. Janczak then added a 1-yard score six minutes later to put the Titans up 31-21 heading into the fourth.