Great second half pushes Maine West to playoffs

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Maine West defenseman Alexander Gorbenko (24) turns up the pressure on Highland Park QB David Finfer (10) causing a quick throw resulting in a Warrior interception. (Joe Cukierski/for the Journal)

Friday night in Maine West was a win-and-go situation for two Central Suburban North teams who were both 4-4. Highland Park visited the Warriors and the winner earned a berth in the IHSA Class 7A State Football Playoffs.

West opened the game in the second half to beat the Giants 34-6 and end Highland Park’s season. The Warriors’ win was good enough to join the field of 256 playoff teams across eight classes; West will travel to St. Charles North (8-1) in the first round.

“We got through it, but it was a big challenge for us,” Maine West coach George Klupchak said. “We had a few chances in the first half to open it up, but we let it slip away. The second half saw some of our breaks go our way and then things turned around for us.

Maine West dominated the first half but only led 7-0. Maine West on the opening kickoff walked 80 yards in 10 plays. Isaac Pittman capped the series on a 2-yard run. Highland Park in the first half turned the ball over three times, all by interceptions, but the Warriors failed to score.

Highland Park, despite first-half passing errors, had a potential 59-yard touchdown pass from quarterback David Finfer to John Walker disallowed due to a holding penalty. Maine West held on to their slim 7-0 lead early in the third quarter when, at kickoff, Nick Rosenbloom fumbled, recovered the loose ball and was choked out by a Warriors crowd on the 1-yard line . Finfer on first down completed a pass to Nick Blumer. The ball was stripped and West’s Frank Norman collected it at 12 and returned it at 2. Pittman, in the Wildcat set, tore through the Giants defense for his second touchdown.

“Highland Park’s turnover early in the third quarter was the game of the game,” Klupchak said, “it gave us a lot of momentum. Highland Park seemed to lose confidence and enthusiasm.

The Maine West defense and quarterback Tommy Delaney took over at that point. The junior QB scored two touchdowns on 8 and 14 yard runs and completed 12 of 16 passes for 159 yards for the game. Delaney in the first half completed 8 of his first 8 passes to four different receivers. The Maine West defense in the first half held Highland Park to 69 total yards.

“The defense has improved a lot since the first four games of the season,” admitted Klupchak. “I believe in our five games in the Central Suburban North league, our opponents have scored a total of 36 points.”

Pittman, in addition to his two touchdowns, rushed 17 carries for 105 yards and had one interception. The defense sacked Finfer three times and forced five turnovers at Highland Park that allowed two second-half touchdowns.

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