PARK RIDGE — Third-seeded Maine South took control against 14th-seeded Niles West on the first snap of Saturday afternoon’s football game.
Junior Brian Collis threw a screen pass to Tommy Bazarek. The senior caught the pass on the left, and then crossed the entire field during his 60-yard scamper to the end zone just 25 seconds into the game.
The Hawks’ superiority was never in doubt after that — they won the Class 8A first-round playoff game 54-21 — but their playoff future was in question when Collis took a big hit in the pocket later in the first quarter.
Collis was hit on his right arm as he was trying to throw down the field. Niles West recovered the fumble, and Maine South’s stadium and sideline were both quiet as Collis lay on the ground for more than a minute.
“Right after it happened, [my right arm] went numb,” Collis said. “I couldn’t really feel it.”
Bazarek added: “I was worried. It worried me a lot.”
Collis didn’t miss a play, however.
“As soon as I got to the sideline, it got a lot better,” Collis said. “I think it was just the funny bone. … I started throwing just to loosen it up. It was fine from then on.”
The Hawks, who will host fourth-seeded Barrington in the Class 8A playoffs next week, led 14-7 at the time Collis went down. The ensuing Maine South drive ended with Collis connecting with senior tight end Vinny Labus for a 5-yard touchdown.
Maine South senior outside linebacker George Sargeant followed with a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown to make it 28-7. Senior running back Kevin Thomas scored on a 1-yard run, and then Collis found junior Jonathan Arenas for a 21-yard strike with 2:49 remaining in the first half.
Collis’ third and final touchdown pass of the game gave the Hawks a 41-7 lead. It also showed how diverse and dangerous Maine South’s offense can be when Collis — who went 18-for-23 with 260 yards and no interceptions — is playing well.
“It’s great to have all those receivers out there,” Collis said. “Vinny made some really nice plays today to get open. Justin [Fahey] had some great routes today. So did Tommy. It’s great to have a lot of great receivers like that.”
Most high school quarterbacks can only dream of the talent that Collis has around him, yet Collis and Bazarek agreed that Collis has developed since Maine South’s 2013 campaign ended with a 35-0 loss to Loyola in the Class 8A state quarterfinals.
Collis said he’s more confident and comfortable, especially when it comes to the speed of the game and getting in rhythm with his backs, tight ends and receivers.
From Bazarek’s perspective, having Collis at quarterback is something that provides the team with a lot of belief.
“I trust him,” Bazarek said. “Most of our plays are read routes, so it’s all about trust between the receivers and quarterbacks. He hangs in the pocket, takes hits. He’s a great player.”
• Senior running back Brandon Costantino scored on an 87-yard run in the first quarter, but Maine South’s defense limited Niles West’s offense as the Hawks built a 48-7 lead.
• Senior quarterback Tommy Galanopoulos finished his high school career by going 18-for-28 for 113 yards and two interceptions. He also rushed 14 times for 13 yards and a touchdown.
• Maine South beat Niles West 65-21 earlier in the season.