Tigers rally spoils WNHS home opener
Woodstock North High School had never beaten Fox Valley Conference Fox Division powerhouse Crystal Lake Central High School in its brief football history. In fact, one of the only blemishes in the Thunders magical 2011 playoff season that saw them finish 7-2 and share the Fox Division title with Central came at the hands of CLC in a 42-6 drubbing.
For much of the night Sept. 14, that history appeared to be changing.
Despite dominating most of the first half and taking a 14-0 lead into halftime, the Thunder were unable to overcome Central’s power run game and their own mistakes, dropping their home opener 21-14.
Mistakes were the story of the night and neither team was immune to them. WNHS (2-2 overall, 1-1 FVC Fox) committed two turnovers, and CLC had three, all in the first half. The Tigers’ first turnover came on their first drive, coughing up the ball at their own 29-yard line.
A 29-yard touchdown run on the ensuing play by North fullback Ryan Wade was nullified by a procedure penalty. The Thunder were unable to capitalize after that, turning the ball back over on downs.
WNHS didn’t miss many opportunities in the second quarter. Early in the quarter quarterback Brian Loftin hooked up with receiver Shane Zieman on a 42-yard touchdown completion.
After an Adam Haimbaugh interception, the Thunder were in business again. Another big completion from Loftin to Haimbaugh for 28 yards set the Thunder up at the Tigers 1-yard line. Wade finished the drive with a 1-yard plunge, sending North into halftime with a 14-0 lead.
The passing game was a welcome new arrival for North. After not being able to get anything going in the air in their first three games, WNHS sprinkled throws in for most of the night, with Loftin hitting on his first eight attempts.
“Brian can throw the ball,” said WNHS head coach, Jeff Schroeder. “I don’t think people realize how good he is. We worked on our pass protection (this week). We work on it every week, but we spent a little bit more time on it.”
Central (3-1, 2-0) came out and switched momentum immediately in the second half. With touchdowns on their only two possessions of the third quarter, the Tigers tied the game 14-14 entering the final period.
North attempted to stop the bleeding as the fourth quarter started, mounting a long drive that took them deep into Tiger territory. A mishandled option pitch turned into a fumble which the Tigers recovered at their 17-yard line, thwarting the Thunder’s attempt to retake the lead.
Central took advantage of the opportunity, taking 6:40 off the clock on an 83-yard drive, capped by the winning touchdown.
“If we don’t fumble that ball, it’s a whole different story right now,” said Loftin. “If we score on that drive, it’s (a) 21-14 (win) if we put up a stop on defense.”
The Thunder will have to put their disappointment behind them, with another big game on the horizon. North travels across town to face rival Woodstock High School. The Blue Streaks enter the game with an identical 2-2 record (1-1 FVC Fox), which includes a matching 21-14 loss to Crystal Lake Central.
“We respect them,” Schroeder said. “They’re tough, and it’s going to be at their place. We’ve got to go and play the way we’re capable and not have these mental errors.”
North has won two of the three meetings between the two teams, with Loftin quarterbacking both of the victories. Loftin is looking forward to a charged atmosphere in his third and final appearance in the matchup.
“It’s going to be a crazy intense atmosphere,” said Loftin. “They’re going into it feeling good, so we’ve just got to come out and play our game and, hopefully, come out on top.”