New Trier stays in playoff hunt with win over Waukegan
Nykaza's scores 3 touchdowns as Trevians notch fifth victory
Still feeling the sting from last week’s tough loss to Evanston, New Trier junior running back Jack Nykaza and his teammates were on a mission for Saturday’s game against Waukegan – win and keep their state playoff hopes alive.
The Trevians (5-3, 2-2 CSL South) knew that a victory over Waukegan would give them the five wins necessary to be considered and once the squad hit the field it was all business. Nykaza made sure of that as he scored all three New Trier touchdowns in a 27-2 decision over the host Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at Weiss field.
It was a defensive struggle early on, as the Trevians scored on a 23-yard field goal by Scott Schoder to take a 3-0 lead on their first possession. The next time New Trier had the ball, quarterback Connor DeLoach (7-of-11 passing, 129 yards, TD) fumbled after he was sacked hard by Waukegan’s Aaron Carr and Emilio Mantejano recovered the ball for the Bulldogs with 4 minutes left in the first quarter. Waukegan failed to score, but neither did New Trier as the quarter ended without further damage.
After the Bulldogs drove down the field late in the first, a 26-yard field goal attempt was blocked by the Trevians. However, there was no reward for the Waukegan offense since a nine-play drive that lasted 4 minutes, 9 seconds resulted in no points.
That’s when the Nykaza and the rest of the New Trier offense decided it was time to get down to business.
After Waukegan (2-6, 1-3) punted with just under 5 minutes left in the second quarter, New Trier struck quickly when DeLoach faked a handoff, looked left and then found a wide open Nykaza to his right and he bolted for a 53-yard touchdown, giving the Trevians a 10-0 advantage.
“Having a quarterback the caliber of Connor (DeLoach) helps a lot on a play like that. He put the ball right in my hands and the blocking also was great,” Nykaza said. “Fortunately, we were able to execute the play and put it in – and that got us fired up.”
Another Schoder field goal, this one from 25 yards out, gave the Trevians a 13-0 cushion at halftime. The break also gave them time to make some adjustments to try to get the offense on track against a tough Waukegan defense.
It didn’t take long after a 45-yard kickoff return by senior Ryan Kindra gave the Trevians good field position at the Waukegan 46-yard line. Nykaza (20 carries, 125 yards, 2 catches, 84 yards, 3 TDs) took his first carry of the second half up the middle for 31 yards, his second to the right for 12 more and his third through the heart of the Bulldogs’ defense for a 5-yard touchdown.
“Our outside and inside trap plays were working well today, that’s what we ran mostly,” Nykaza acknowledged. “We knew we had to take their linebackers out of the equation and cut it back a lot and use plenty of misdirection and play-action.”
Waukegan followed with a 9-play drive of its own, but it stalled on the 13-yard line when quarterback Reggie Richter fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the New Trier’s Peter Reilly.
That set up “The Drive” with 7:19 to go in the third quarter.
New Trier took over at its own 24-yard line and proceeded to orchestrate a 19-play drive that chewed up 10 minutes, 7 seconds off the clock and ended with an 8-yard run to pay dirt by Nykaza with 9:12 to go in the final period, making it 27-0.
The long march was just what New Trier coach Dan Starkey had been looking for from his offense.
“We really wanted to keep our defense off the field, run the ball on offense, and really jump on the backs of our offensive line,” Starkey said “I thought they did a great job of controlling the ball. We wanted to use play-action passing and have a high-percentage completion rate. It really came together on that drive and I think our kids did a great job of executing.”
Even Waukegan coach Nick Browder was impressed with the Trevians’ execution.
“We get the ball after a New Trier punt and piddle around (on offense) a little bit, we kick it back to them and that was it!” Browder said. “We didn’t even see the ball again until the fourth quarter. They put together a good game plan, a great drive and executed it very well.”
Waukegan moved the ball well at times during the game but the New Trier defense would not allow the Bulldogs to find the end zone. Waukegan’s only points came after the Trevians’ defense made a goal-line stand, stopping the Bulldogs at the 1-yard line after an 11-play drive. On the next New Trier series, Kindra was tackled in the end zone by Carr for a safety.
“Defensively, our kids really flew to the ball today,” Starkey said. “We got a lot of hats around the ball and they played together as a team. I thought that was big.”
The Trevians held Waukegan running back Darien Green to just 19 yards on 14 carries, forcing the Bulldogs into passing situations for much of the second half.
Richter was 19-of-31 passing for 187 yards and one interception. Maurice Childs (16 yards), Frank Pettis (27 yards), Kyle Williams (47 yards) and Mark Jones (25 yards)hauled in two passes each for the Bulldogs.
“New Trier played tough today,” Browder said. “They played like they had something on the line and they did – they’re trying to go to the playoffs and they played that way. We can’t play teams like this and hurt ourselves the way we did and expect to win.”