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Waubonsie Valley’s Max Ihry makes Metea Valley’s defense weary

In the season opener, Max Ihry made a huge, game-changing play on defense.

During Saturday afternoon’s Class 8A first-round playoff game against Metea Valley, the Waubonsie Valley junior was a difference-maker on offense as well.

Ihry rushed for the game-winning touchdown, breaking a 14-14 tie with 2:58 left in the fourth quarter, to carry the host Warriors to a 21-14 victory.

In Week 1 against Naperville Central, Ihry forced a fumble at the goal line and also had an interception. Those same Redhawks will visit Waubonsie in the second round next weekend.

“We knew since last year when we brought him in as a sophomore that he was our No. 2 back behind Tony (Durns), but we needed him on defense,” Warriors coach Paul Murphy said. “So we were going to go as long as we could with him on the defensive side of the ball.

“He’s been getting some reps at practice to keep him fresh, but if there was no need to use him we weren’t going to use them.”

Waubonsie Valley (9-1) certainly needed Ihry (11 rushes, 110 yards) with Durns nowhere near 100 percent and limited to only four carries.

“We decided to run a big, power package with me as running back,” Ihry said. “They were tougher on defense then the last time (we played), but we kept doing what we needed to do and got the win.”

Metea (5-5) could not have gotten off to a better start as the Mustangs scored on their game-opening possession, getting a few big runs from Bryson Oliver (24 carries, 103 yards), who also scored on a 7-yarder.

The rest of the day wouldn’t go nearly as smoothly for Oliver, who injured his right ankle midway through the second quarter. He’d miss the rest of the half as well as the first offensive series of the third quarter.

“Bryson has been our heart and soul all year,” Mustangs coach Ben Kleinhans said. “For him to get banged up — all the work he did was for this game — I feel bad for him. He wanted to be back there and wasn’t 100 percent, though.”

Shortly after Oliver went down, Ihry exploded up the middle for a 72-yard run to set up quarterback Zack Bennema for a 2-yard, game-tying touchdown.

Another big play, this time a 48-yard pass from Bennema to Will Buford, put Bennema in position to score on a 1-yard run with 7:35 left in the third quarter.

“We told them you’re going to get an opportunity to hit a big pass with the way they’re playing their coverage,” Murphy said. “But we got to execute and we’ve got to give Zack a chance to throw the ball.”

An interception gave the Mustangs excellent field position, which they used to tie the game at 14-14 on Nick Dodson’s 5-yard reception from Kyle Mooney. They also drove toward the potential go-ahead touchdown but Oliver was stopped on a crucial fourth-and-1 near midfield.

“We had a four-man front with two of our linebackers blitzing,” Warriors linebacker Luke Marzano said. “I give a lot of credit to our defensive line in front of me. They took on those offensive linemen and I had a wide-open gap to make a play in the backfield.”

The Mustangs were held to just 183 yards of offense after their first drive.

“Our defense has battled all year long,” Murphy said. “They’re not the biggest, but have got pretty good quickness and we just battle and have a never-say-die attitude and get after it.”