McHENRY – There was one big positive for McHenry to its negatives of 3 turnovers and 54 yards in penalties in the first 18 minutes of its Fox Valley Conference game with visiting Dundee-Crown on Friday night.
It only put the Warriors in a 7-point hole as they turned a barrage of negative plays fueled by senior defensive end Kevin Sandoval and their defense into the best positive outcome possible at McCracken Field: a 14-7 victory where they allowed only 7 yards of total offense as Sandoval had three sacks and four tackles for losses.
"I felt like we were all playing as a unit today," the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Sandoval said after the Warriors had 13 stops for negative yardage. "We all knew what our job was and we executed it. We probably had a few glimpses of this last year but not for a whole game like this."
Sandoval had plenty of help from his friends up front as sophomore Tyler Groves' sack led to the game-winning fumble return for a touchdown by Dominic Lorenzo on the first play of the second half. Dawson Fallaw also had a sack and Ayden Watson had a tackle for a loss.
Sophomore linebacker Luke Zunkel had a tackle for a loss and sack and his brother Paul had another sack. And sophomore Kyle Kaempf's diving interception at the D-C 37 allowed McHenry (1-1, 1-1) to run out the final 4:32 of the game behind sophomore Brody Hallin (31 carries, 160 yards).
"(Defensive coordinator) Colt Nero and our defensive staff did a great job tonight," said McHenry coach Jon Niemic. "Kevin did a good job of pinning his ears back."
Fittingly, it was a defense play that broke a 7-7 tie right after halftime. The 6-1, 240-pound Groves separated D-C (0-2, 0-2) quarterback Evan Echlin from the ball and Lorenzo picked it up and raced 12 yards into the end zone for the first touchdown he has ever scored.
"When I saw the ball I went as fast as I can to pick it up," Lorenzo said. "As soon as I got the touchdown it was the most hyped I could be."
The big stops kept coming as Sandoval had a tackle for loss and sack to force a three-and-out on D-C's next possession.
"Right off the bat I felt 100 times faster than the tackle I was going up against," Sandoval said. "Our defense came out and hit them in the mouth before they hit us."
But the Chargers hit the end zone first after a muffed punt led to Echlin's 26-yard touchdown pass to Alex Lopez on the first play of the second quarter. Lopez followed with an interception, but the Chargers couldn't capitalize on a roughing the kicker penalty on a missed 35-yard field goal as they wound up with another miss from 28 yards.
McHenry finally broke through on fourth-and-4 at the D-C 33. After a timeout, Hallin broke a tackle at the 25 and raced down the left sideline to tie the game 2:19 before halftime.
"It opened up and all of the line got on their blocks," Hallin said of Luke Zunkel, Jacob Lesus, Steven Melvin Jr., Ryan Koczor and Zach Babincsak. "The penalties kind of hurt us a little bit but we kept it positive and had a really dominant second half."
D-C finished with positive yardage when Lopez turned a bubble screen from Echlin into a 14-yard gain. Junior Jhalon Reese, who had to move to guard on offense because of injuries, and Trevor Fed led a defense that allowed only 225 total yards.
"Our defense played great for the second week in a row," said D-C coach Mike Steinhaus. "We're playing pretty good D right now and I'm proud of that group. If you play D you can be in games and we're doing that right now. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot."
STAR OF THE GAME
McHenry, Sr., DE-TE-P
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Sandoval was a frequent visitor to the Dundee-Crown backfield with 3 sacks and 4 tackles for losses as McHenry allowed only 7 yards of total offense. Sandoval also punted 6 times for a 34.5 average.
Dundee-Crown 0 7 0 0 - 7
McHenry 0 7 7 0 - 14
D-C - Lopez 26 pass from Echlin (Alamillo kick), 11:52
McH - Hallin 33 run (Gasmann kick), 2:19
McH - Lorenzo 12 fumble return (Gasmann kick), 11:48