New Trier ground game gets best of Niles West
Nykaza runs wild with 160 yards and three touchdowns
In his first career start at left guard on the New Trier offensive line, sophomore Tom Maentz was still getting used to filling in for injured senior Scott Southern.
By the end of Friday night’s 28-14 win over host Niles West, Maentz looked and felt completely settled in as the Trevians gained 248 yards rushing the ball – including 55 of those on the game-clinching drive capped by junior Jack Nykaza's 11-yard touchdown burst with 54.9 seconds remaining – behind some stellar play in the trenches.
“I learned how to communicate with the line this week,” said Maentz, who made his varsity debut against Glenbrook South in limited action. “We got our down blocks. Last week, I didn’t really feel like part of the team, but on that last drive I just really felt like a part of it.
“I was more anxious before this game. Now I’m confident that our line can get it done – and that I am part of this line.”
After each team had traded a pair of touchdowns as play extended well into the second quarter, Nykaza, the Trevians’ leading rusher (160 yards, 21 carries, 3 TDs), broke the 14-14 tie when he ran 15-yards untouched into the end zone with 2 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first half to put New Trier ahead for good 21-14.
“I played pretty well all because of our offensive line,” Nykaza acknowledged. “My fullback, Kevin (Samuelson), played really well. They really set up the holes and picked up the blitzes. That helped me a lot because I could see the field better.”
While New Trier leaned on its defense and ground-attack in the second half, it struck from the air on its second play from scrimmage to open the game in a big way.
On his own 31-yard line, Trevian quarterback Connor DeLoach saw senior receiver Scott Schoder spread out wide and uncovered. He snapped the ball and immediately got the ball into the hands of Schoder, who raced 69-yards for the score and a 7-0 New Trier lead.
However, Niles West senior receiver Santiago Ochoa returned the ensuing kickoff 66-yards to the New Trier 19-yard line, setting up excellent field position. The Wolves capitalized on Ochoa’s big play as senior running back David Galimore finished the drive with a six-yard touchdown run with 9:06 left in the first quarter. A failed extra-point attempt kept the Trevians’ cushion at 7-6.
Niles West linebacker Brandon Jones recovered a New Trier fumble on the next drive, but the Wolves couldn’t turn the giveaway into points as New Trier linebacker Sam Scherer came up with a big tackle for a five-yard loss on third down to stall the drive.
Scherer recovered a Niles West fumble at the Wolves' 15-yard line after a big hit from New Trier senior linebacker Jack Montgomery. Nykaza scored on a seven-yard run two plays later to give the Trevians a 14-6 advantage with 10:18 left in the first half.
“We were really focused,” Scherer said. “We know they have a good team at Niles West. We just focused on shutting down their speed guys. We know they have a couple track kids. We also knew they had speed to the outside and we just had to take care of that.”
The Wolves’ special teams struck again on the subsequent kickoff when senior quarterback Seve Loubriel went 60yards to the Trevians’ 31-yard line after taking the reverse back from Ochoa.
Faced with a fourth-and-goal from the five, Niles West went to the reverse again and Ochoa took a handoff from Galimore into the end zone. Galimore ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game 14-14 with 5:44 left in the first half.
“Every time I looked up they were starting at the 40 or 50 yard line,” New Trier coach Dan Starkey said. “They’ve got some speed back on kickoff returns and we wanted to challenge our guys to stop them on that. We didn’t do a very good job early in the game, so we have to be a lot better in that area.”
Niles West had trouble moving the ball in the second half, due in large part to the Trevians’ defense, led by Montgomery, Scherer, Connor Casas, Wilson King and Nick Hedge. New Trier cornerback Tom Merriman came up with a fumble recovery after a botched handoff with 8 minutes remaining near midfield with the Trevians ahead 21-14.
“Our defense came out and played real well in the second half,” Scherer said. “We let up a couple big plays early, but we were able to come out and shut them down in the second half. We really took (Ochoa) out of the game. He was their big, explosive guy.”
Niles West junior linebacker Terrance Bramlett came up with two consecutive tackles in the Trevians’ backfield on third and fourth downs to give the Wolves the ball back with 5:26 left to play.
“(Niles West) Coach (Bill) Pistorious does a great job,” Wolves head coach Scott Baum said. “This week he put in a package that got almost seven new guys in – like a nickel package or dime package and lets these kids fly around. It’s tough to go to practice every day when you have one win. So I thought coach P did a great job changing things up – and it showed in practice. We played at a higher level.”
Unfortunately for the Wolves, big plays by Casas and Hedge forced a Niles West punt that ultimately led to the Trevians’ final scoring drive.
The New Trier defense allowed only 112 yards of total offense. DeLoach finished 7-of-11 passing for 132 yards and a touchdown. Schoder finished with two catches for 81 yards. Samuelson rumbled for 51 yards on 10 carries.
Galimore finished as Niles West's leading rusher with 41 yards on 21 carries. Ochoa was the Wolves' top receiver with three grabs for 20 yards.
“We have some kids who can play football a little bit and get in space,” Baum said. “We just haven’t been able to get in space. I think we did a little bit better job of blocking. We just made too many mistakes and they’re (New Trier) a nice football team.”