By Jason Maholy
The Sandburg defense recorded five sacks, held Stagg to 36 yards of total offense and scored two touchdowns to spark the Eagles to a 30-6 victory in a battle of SouthWest Suburban Conference foes.
Sandburg’s struggling offense finally got going, at least on the ground, rushing for 207 yards. Jalen Austin ran 12 times for 87 yards and a touchdown and Luke Stefanos had 13 carries for 73 yards.
The Eagles improved to 2-2 and must win three of their final five games to make the playoffs. Stagg fell to 1-3.
Sandburg’s defense has acquitted itself well this season, including in losses to likely playoff teams Hillcrest and Lincoln-Way West, and scored two early touchdowns to help stake the visitors to a 23-0 halftime lead. Jimmy Roche returned a pick-six 47 yards to open the scoring, and Hayden Bedell scooped up a fumble and ran 14 yards to extend the lead to 20-0.
The Eages ‘D’ limited the Chargers to three yards rushing, four first downs and 1.2 yards per play.
Sandwiched between the two defensive touchdowns was an eight-yard scoring run by Austin. Kevin Zimmer tossed a two-yard touchdown pass to Mike Bosco for the Eagles’ final score.
Stagg scored on a one-yard run by junior quarterback Tim Roe in the fourth quarter.
“The defense again played great,” said Sandburg coach Scott Peters. “And we didn’t give up any big plays, which hurt us the week before (against Lincoln-Way West).
Peters believes his offense has started to get on track after a tough start to the season. The Eagles have used four offensive line combinations in four games, and against the Chargers started two sophomores, a junior and two seniors.
“I think they are starting to gel well,” Peters said. “Our young guys all deserve to be playing and they’re starting to come around. If we can make a few more plays offensively, which we struggled to do weeks one through three, I think we can build something special with these kids.”
The defense continued its strong play despite being young and relatively inexperienced, with several players logging more than the usual field time against Stagg. The Eagles started three junior defensive backs and three more at linebacker.
“We are pretty banged up, but the kids have refused to worry about that, they just keep working hard and work to get better within the scheme each week,” he added. “I am impressed with how our young guys have stepped up.”
The Eagles face the tough task of needed three wins in their final five games to make its first postseason appearance in four seasons. To make it more difficult, they have to win at least one game against either Lincoln-Way East, Homewood-Flossmoor and Bolingbrook, three programs that have state championship aspirations and are playing like legitimate contenders. The three are a combined 11-1, with the lone loss belonging to Bolingbrook, which fell 20-10 to East last week.
“Our schedule is brutal,” Peters said. “We’re going to end up playing at least four teams that at one point or another this year will be ranked in the top 10 in state. However, we don’t focus on that. That stuff is for people outside the program. We just focus on playing one week at a time, working hard each week, and controlling what we can control.”