Waukegan’s offense finally finds higher gear

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Waukegan High program doesn’t play many games that end like Saturday’s did — a 47-0 victory over visiting Maine West that improved the Bulldogs to 2-1 on the season and kept their playoff hopes viable with two-thirds of the season still to play.

There was a 41-0 win over Maine West last year; and a 48-13 win over Maine East in 2008; and a 43-0 win over Maine East in 2007; and a 56-0 win over Schurz from Chicago back in 2001.

And that’s it since the turn of the century for games involving the running clock on the positive side for Waukegan.

On this day, almost all things were positive for Waukegan, which put up some eye-popping numbers against a Maine West (1-2) team that had no chance.

■ Waukegan runs much of its offense from the wishbone formation, and one of the backs — Noel Gonzalez — had 13 carries for 287 yards and TDs on runs of 74, 66, 10 and 62 yards, all in the first half plus 32 seconds of the third quarter. He also caught a 23-yard TD pass from QB Melvin Bobo IV to open the scoring.

■ Waukegan finished with 39 rushes for 400 yards, plus another 60 yards gained through the air.

■ The Bulldogs’ defense held Maine West to 36 passing yards and minus-5 yards rushing. The Warriors’ Matt Acevedo was 9-of-29 passing with two picks, one of which was returned 60 yards for a touchdown by talented junior safety Charlie Pettis.

■ In three games this fall, Waukegan’s defense has allowed team rushing totals of minus-10, five, and minus-5 yards. Surely, no team in the state has been tougher against the run.

■ In those same three games, Waukegan’s pass defense has allowed team totals of minus-1, 115 and 36 yards — 150 TOTAL.

If there were negatives, it was these two:

■ Three players — two from Maine West — were ejected in the chippy contest. Waukegan’s loss was a huge one. Not only is Adalberto Maldonado the starting center, but he also is the long-snapper on PAT kicks, plays some defensive line, does the punting and does the kicking off. He will be in street clothes for next Friday’s all-important game at 3-0 Highland Park.

■ Waukegan may lead the state in 15-yard penalties. They had seven against Maine West, not including the unsportsmanlike penalty when Malnonado got booted that didn’t count because there was an offsetting same penalty and ejection against Maine West. All told, Waukegan had 15 accepted penalties in the game.

But all in all, the showing put a smile on the face of first-year Waukegan coach Juan Anillo.

“Finally! I’ve been waiting for this,” he said. “I thought it was good. We still have to cut down on the penalties. We’re learning how to win ballgames.

“We had a long talk about that at halftime,” he added. “Learning how to finish games is part of the maturation process. Taking a swing (at an opposing player) with two seconds left in the half and losing our center for the next week is not how you do that.”

Offensively, Gonzalez made his own personal highlight real for the season, and the coach was obviously pleased with the showing.

“That was definitely a great performance. I’ve had 300-yarders before, but they wound up with 25, 28, 30 carries,” Anillo said. “He found some holes and busted some big ones. It was a good day. Our linemen are starting to gel.

“Because of when I came in (he was hired on Aug. 9), we’ve been trying to scramble and get things in, and that’s made things difficult,” he added. “But they’re starting to believe in themselves and what we’re asking them to do. We have a long road ahead of us still, but this is a good start.”

Especially for Gonzalez, a senior who lines up in the wishbone formation with Jeremy Johnson (10 carries, 62 yards) and Malcolm Jordan (4 carries, 16 yards).

“I’m speechless. All the credit really goes to the line,” Gonzalez said. “I told them before the game that if they do what we need them to do, if they follow their assignments, we’re going to come out with a big win. Like I told the guys, we have to put the last game behind us (a loss to Zion-Benton) and keep moving forward.”

Actually, it looks as if it’s the defense that will carry the Bulldogs on their run toward the playoffs. One of the stars of that unit is senior lineman Lorenzo Tanner.

“It comes down to using the technique we’re being taught and playing hard and aggressive. Our mindset when we step on the field is that nobody is going to move the ball on us,” he said.

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