Thunder dominate to clinch playoffs
The Woodstock North High School varsity football team had to prove it.
After finishing 7-2 to earn a share of the Fox Valley Conference Fox division title and its first ever playoff berth last year, the challenge for WNHS was to prove their magical 2011 season wasn’t a fluke.
The Thunder did just that Oct. 12 at home against Hampshire High School, whipping the Whip-Purs 46-14 to clinch their second consecutive IHSA playoff appearance.
WNHS senior quarterback Brian Loftin led the way for the Thunder, rushing for two long touchdowns and throwing for another. Loftin said earning another playoff appearance was a big step for the still-young program.
“It’s huge,” said Loftin. “I’ve been here since the program was 0-9 to 2-7 to 7-2 last year and a playoff berth. (We’re) 6-2 right now with another playoff berth and maybe a chance to get that conference championship again. It’s huge to watch the program build to what it’s become. I’m grateful to be a part of it.”
WNHS (6-2 overall, 4-1 FVC Fox) dominated Hampshire from the outset, stopping the Whip-Purs on defense and scoring quickly. The Thunder needed only four plays to go 71 yards on their first drive. Loftin sprinted around the left end and raced 47 yards for a touchdown barely three minutes into the game.
The Thunder didn’t look back, leading 26-6 at halftime and continuing to control the game in the second half. Loftin scored twice on the ground, with runs of 47 and 58 yards contributing to his 146 rushing yards on the night. Loftin also connected with receiver Shane Zieman on a 30-yard scoring pass in the second quarter.
Loftin’s fellow senior backfield mates, Ryan Wade and Adam Haimbaugh, also contributed two touchdowns each. Wade scored on runs of 1 and 8 yards. Haimbaugh’s scoring totes were for 45 and 69 yards. Haimbaugh led all rushers with 175 yards on the ground on the night.
“We picked a good time to play our best game of the year,” said Thunder head coach, Jeff Schroeder. “That’s a good feeling because Hampshire is a pretty good football team. They’re physical and they execute well. For us to come out and play that well, I’m pretty proud of our kids.”
WNHS has a chance to duplicate its 2011 season in more ways than the playoff appearance. A victory against Grayslake North High School in Woodstock on Friday will match the Thunder 7-2 record from 2011 and give them a share of the FVC Fox title, which they also shared last year.
Defeating Grayslake North, led by senior star quarterback AJ Fish, will be no easy task. The Knights come to town with a 7-1 record (5-0 FVC Fox), and a chance to win the conference title outright. Grayslake North defeated crosstown rival, Grayslake Central High School, 49-7 Oct. 12, behind Fish’s six touchdowns (three rushing and three passing).
Fish, who has committed to play lacrosse at the University of Virginia, is no slouch on the football field. With nearly 1,400 yards rushing thus far and more than 3,300 yards combined, Fish will present the Thunder with a unique challenge.
“He can run,” said Loftin of his quarterback counterpart. “He can throw. I’ve seen his numbers. I have not seen him play yet (this season), but obviously, we’re going to watch some film. He’s a playmaker, so we’re going to have to come ready and prepare for him all week. It’s going to be a challenge.”