O’Brien: Undefeated St. Charles East knocks off New Trier

SHARE O’Brien: Undefeated St. Charles East knocks off New Trier

Zachary Mitchell (17) of St. Charles East shakes off a New Trier defender. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

The perceived quality of a conference means more than team records in high school football. So even though St. Charles East had a perfect regular season, there were questions about the Saints heading into the Class 8A state playoffs. Had they been tested enough in the Upstate Eight?

St. Charles East dominated and shut out a good Lockport team in the first round. On Friday in Northfield, the Saints answered any remaining doubters by knocking off host New Trier 17-10.

“This hasn’t surprised us, we knew what we were capable of,” St. Charles East quarterback Zach Mitchell said. “It started this summer. We got together and made goals in the offseason and we really believe in each other and we worked harder than any other team.”

The Saints will face the winner of Saturday’s Palatine-Lyons game in the quarterfinals.

“It feels amazing,” Mitchell said. “Last year we were 4-5 and didn’t even make the playoffs so to be at this point is pretty crazy.”

St. Charles East (11-0) were thoroughly tested. New Trier (8-3) held the Saints’ top offensive threat, running back Justin Jett, to just 19 yards on 10 carries. He scored on a one-yard run in the first quarter.

“[New Trier’s] linebackers were as quick as any we’ve faced,” St. Charles East coach Bryce Farquhar said. “They took Jett out of the game and that’s a kid pushing 1,000 yards. They made [Mitchell] run the ball and he did a great job of that.”

Mitchell was a solid, effective workhorse on the ground, rushing 20 times for 185 yards.

“They take away one thing and we try to open up another,” Mitchell said. “That’s just the way the offense works”

Mitchell was 2-for-6 passing for 33 yards and one touchdown, a 25-yard pass to Joshua Luedtke in the third quarter that proved to be the game-winner.

New Trier quarterback Clay Czyzynski is a terrific scrambler, capable of keeping a play alive for an incredibly long amount of time. He had 16 carries for 89 yards, but fumbled on the goal line twice.

“Our defense played out of their minds tonight,” Farquhar said. “They created turnovers when we needed them to. They were on the goal line twice and our defense created turnovers. They are really the story of this game.”

Czyzynski finished 10-for-18 for 121 yards and one interception, which came on the Trevians final drive of the game.

“This is the first team that has really put us in a position where we were tested over and over,” Farquhar said. “We are usually controlling time of possession. They did a great job, really grinded us out and kept our defense on the field.”

New Trier’s touchdown came on a trick play late in the first half. Czyzynski pitched the ball to receiver Brian Kaiser, who threw to Scott McCabe in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown pass. That put the Trevians ahead 10-7.

“We’d been down before,” Mitchell said. “We knew we were going to come here and have a battle. It was a dogfight, just back and forth. That is what we have as a team, we pick each other up. The defense really stuck it out.”

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