YORKVILLE – Fourth and goal from the nine-yard line. Ninety seconds on the clock in a four-point game. It was all or nothing. Minooka quarterback Nathan Maul extended the play to his right. He thought he found an open receiver over middle.
But Yorkville junior Luke Zook had other plans.
Zook delivered a devastating hit to jar the ball loose from the hands of the Minooka receiver and secure the Foxes a 17-13 win, their first in the Southwest Prairie West.
“I saw he already caught it,” Zook said. “I was going through him.”
After getting eight stitches in his eyebrow on Wednesday, Zook left it all on the field.
“To come out and play as physical as he did is a testament to his toughness,” Yorkville coach Dan McGuire said. “Our team needed him to step up and make some big plays.”
Yorkville (3-3, 1-1) entered its matchup with Minooka (4-2, 1-1) with thoughts of a demoralizing loss to West Aurora from a week ago. McGuire knew that things had to be rewired to be successful against the Indians.
“It took every one of our kids to cowboy up and get everything we could,” McGuire said. “We can’t say enough about our kids and how they responded to last week.”
The Foxes offense fired on all cylinders in the first half. Quarterback Michael Dopart finished the first half with 114 yards passing, and another 53 on the ground (38 of which came on a touchdown run in the second quarter).
“Dopart was a warrior tonight,” McGuire said.
Dopart finished the night with 155 yards passing, connecting on 16 of 26 attempts. His favorite target Dyllan Malone had six receptions for 83 yards, including a 47-yard catch and run late in the first half to get the Foxes into striking distance.
Zook didn’t just get it done on defense tonight, he rallied the offense as well. The all-state wrestler scampered for a 15-yard touchdown to reclaim the lead from Minooka in the second quarter, giving the Foxes a 10-7 lead that they would never relinquish.
Maul gave a valiant performance in the losing effort. He finished the night 20-38 for 235 yards and a touchdown, but the three turnovers by the Indians were too much to overcome.
“We had quite a few dropped passes and missed opportunities,” Minooka coach Matt Harding said. “When you’re playing good teams, those missed opportunities are going to kill you.”
In the fourth quarter with a 17-13 lead, Yorkville was driving near midfield and attempting to milk the clock before misfortune struck, a fumble giving Minooka the ball at its 48-yard line with just under five minutes to play. Once again, it was up to the Yorkville defense to get a stop.
The Indians drove inside the Yorkville 10-yard line using the connection of Maul and Donovan Anderson, and a little help from an unnecessary roughness penalty. Minooka had four tries to punch it in.
The first three attempts at the end zone yielded nothing. It was going to come down to a final down stand on fourth and nine.
“We liked the look that we had,” Harding said. “We knew we were going to have to air it out in order to get [into the end zone], and it didn’t go our way.”
After Zook’s last stand, McGuire let his physical back finish off the game. He rushed for 14 yards on four carries on the final drive to ice the game.
“After that hit, my adrenaline was going,” Zook said. “I just had to get that first down. I had to protect that ball and keep driving my legs.”
Zook finished the night with six carries for 30 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Zook forced a fumble, and was a physical presence all night.
After the tough loss, Harding knows what it is going to take to get back to where he wants his team to be.
“Getting back into the lab and getting after it,” Harding said. “It’s just doing what we’re coached to do and doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Zook hopes to use this game as a springboard for the rest of the season.
“We’re planning on winning every game out,” Zook said. “We’ve yet to play to our full potential. As we keep practicing and keep getting better, the score is going to be a lot higher than this.”