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Wilmington powers through Nashville to win Class 2A

Wilmington lineman Nick Sanford describes his team’s offense simply and effectively. You can almost feel yourself allowing rushing yards while listening to him. 

Wilmington’s Jacob Friddle (13) breaks free for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Wilmington’s Jacob Friddle (13) breaks free for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

DeKALB — Wilmington senior lineman Nick Sanford describes his team’s double-wing offense simply and effectively. Listening to him, you can almost feel yourself allowing rushing yards.

“Our offense is designed to wear down an opponent,” Sanford said. “Usually, after halftime, we come out and we just pound, pound, pound, pound until they get softer and softer and more holes open.”

Wilmington has been running the double-wing for several decades now, so when Wildcats coach Jeff Reents says this is the best group he has had “with our power football,” it means something.

Wilmington knocked off Nashville 24-7 in the Class 2A state championship game Friday at Huskie Stadium. It was the 19th consecutive victory for the Wildcats, who also went undefeated in the short spring season.

“We’ve been looking forward to this since I was 5 or 6,” senior Allan Richards said. “It’s a great feeling.”

The Wildcats attempted to pass just once in the game, and that resulted in a scramble by quarterback Ryder Meents. Wilmington rushed 54 times for 234 yards.

“What you see is what you get with our offense,” Reents said. “This year, it has really blossomed into something special.”

Senior Jacob Friddle finished with 29 carries for 159 yards and two touchdowns. His 22-yard run with 3:14 left in the first quarter opened the scoring, and he essentially sealed the win with a 34-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

“That was one of the top moments of my football career,” Friddle said. “It was great to have everyone come over to me and hear everyone cheer.”

Junior Colin James added 19 carries for 77 yards for the Wildcats (14-0). Meents scored on a one-yard run just before halftime.

Nashville (12-2) tied the game early in the second quarter on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Kolten Gajewski to Isaac Turner. That was the only significant yardage the Wilmington defense would allow until the final minutes of the game.

Wilmington senior Ryan Banas intercepted a pass on Nashville’s first drive, and senior Karsen Hansen blocked a punt in the second quarter.

Wilmington’s captains Dominic Dingillo (59) and Allan Richards (20) hoist the IHSA 2A State championship trophy.
Wilmington’s captains Dominic Dingillo (59) and Allan Richards (20) hoist the IHSA 2A State championship trophy.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

“It was kind of a reflection of our whole season,” Reents said. “We played good defense and were able to limit a very good Nashville offense and keep them off the field with our ball possession, and special teams came up huge also.”

Nashville was limited to 107 total yards, the majority of which came on a handful of passes late in the fourth quarter. Gajewski was 6-for-21 passing for 112 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

The Hornets, who rushed for minus-5 yards, defeated higher-seeded teams in the second round, quarterfinals and semifinals.

“We couldn’t sustain any type of running game,” Nashville coach Stephen Kozuszek said. “They forced us into some passing situations. And maybe I abandoned the run too quick. But you can’t just put all the blame on us. You have to give them credit. They are a very, very good defense. No one had great success scoring on them all season long. And for good reason.”