Xavier Dandridge returns kickoff 99 yards, powering DeKalb’s win over Metea Valley

Teams score three touchdowns in 25 seconds, including Daniel Pere’s kickoff return for Mustangs

DeKalb's Xavier Dandridge carries the ball after a screen pass during their game Friday, Sept 15, 2023, at Metea Valley High School in Aurora.

AURORA – A methodical nine-minute drive by Metea Valley made it seem the second quarter would be a low-scoring grudge match between the Mustangs and DeKalb.

But the kickoff returners had different ideas.

DeKalb’s Xavier Dandridge and Metea Valley’s Daniel Pere returned kickoffs for touchdowns on consecutive plays, but the Barbs answered with one final scoring drive in the second quarter to take control Friday in a 48-23 DuPage Valley Conference win.

“I just looked up, fielded the ball cleanly,” Dandridge said. “I looked down, saw my teammates blocking, everybody had good blocks, everybody did their job, and I just finished it off and did the rest.”

Metea Valley put together a 16-play, 77-yard drive, starting at about the 11-minute mark in the second quarter. Hani Omar capped the drive with a 1-yard dive on fourth-and-goal for the touchdown, cutting the Barbs’ lead to 14-7 with 2:35 left.

But Dandridge took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards, giving the Barbs the momentum with a 20-7 lead at the 2:21 mark of the second quarter.

However, the momentum was short-lived. Pere answered with a 75-yard return for a score, cutting the lead to 20-14 with 2:10 left, capping the three-touchdown outburst that took only 25 seconds.

DeKalb (2-2, 1-0 DVC) wasn’t content to take the one-score lead into halftime with the ball to start the third. Quarterback Cole Latimer twice found Davon Grant deep, setting up the Barbs with a quick series inside the 10. On third-and-goal from the 2, Talen Tate punched in his second score of the game as DeKalb led 27-14 at the break.

“They grabbed the momentum there with that kickoff return. The kid made a great play,” DeKalb coach Derek Schneeman said. “For us to grab it right before half, getting the ball back in the second half, that was huge for our guys.”

They came out in the second half just as explosively. After an incompletion to start the half, the Barbs’ next two offensive plays were touchdown passes of 48 and 42 yards from Latimer to Grant, sandwiched around a three-and-out for the Mustangs (0-4, 0-1).

Another Mustang three-and-out led to a five-play, 55-yard drive, capped by a 12-yard Dandridge sweep, pushing the lead to 48-14 with 7:18 left in the third quarter. The DeKalb starting offense scored touchdowns on all six possessions it was in the game.

In the 6:03 of game time between Dandridge’s kick return and his sweep, the Barbs outscored the Mustangs 34-7.

“All night I think we did pretty good,” Dandridge said. “We got stopped a few times at the end there when we pulled our starters, but I just think we were clicking on all cylinders on offense. So it was great for us, a great night offensively.”

Latimer was 8 of 9 for 198 yards and three touchdowns, all to Grant – who had five catches for 143 yards. Tate ran 10 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Hani Omar led the Mustangs with 38 yards on eight carries and a touchdown. Owen Bickner added a touchdown run, and Sam Sinzheimer added a late safety for the Mustangs.

Already down starting quarterback Jake MacLeod for the season, Metea Valley coach John Parpet said both running backs Da’Marion Lewis and Charles Flowers were injured in the game.

“We just keep getting hampered by injuries,” Parpet said. “We lost two of our running backs, probably for some significant time on top of our quarterback earlier in the year. That’s kind of where we are right now.”

Methodical drives were the name of the game in the first quarter, with Metea driving for about 6:30 to open the game, but its drive stalled out at the DeKalb 31.

The Barbs answered with a 10-play, 74-yard drive, capped with the longest play of the game to that point – a 24-yard scoring run by Tate with 1:20 left in the first quarter.

“I thought we went down, had a nice drive but we stalled,” Parpet said. “Then they go down and score, and that was kind of the flow of the game. That was just the way it went. ... We just gave up too many big plays to take us out of our offense.

After the Barbs forced a three-and-out, the punt was shanked and went out of bounds at the Metea Valley 17. The Barbs apparently were intercepted by Lucas Van Vlerah, but Van Vlerah was flagged for pass interference as he covered Grant in the end zone. Metea Valley was called three times for pass interference on Grant, all in the first half.

On the next play, Latimer found Grant on a slant with 11:14 left in the second quarter and a 14-0 lead, setting up the Mustangs on their long first scoring drive.