Class 7A playoffs: Wheaton North takes early lead, but loses to Quincy

Falcons let two-touchdown lead slip away

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WHEATON – With an impressive track record in the postseason, it may not have surprised too many that Wheaton North jumped ahead of unbeaten Quincy by a pair of touchdowns in Saturday afternoon’s Class 7A second-round contest.

But the Falcons could only tip their hats to the visitors who turned things around to win 33-14 and advance to the quarterfinals for the first time.

The Falcons, who won the 7A state title in 2021, close out the year 7-4 as the No. 3-seeded Blue Devils (11-0) will host Mt. Carmel next week in the quarterfinals.

“It’s disappointing that we stopped moving the ball. We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds, some turnovers and penalties and we got behind the sticks way too often,” Falcons coach Joe Wardynski said. “Against a good team you can’t do that.

“I was a little surprised they ran off that many in a row against us ... it was a terrible way to finish a good season for us. But I’m proud of these boys, proud of their effort. It’s a good group of kids. I’m hurting for them right now. That’s sports. Someone wins and someone loses.”

Wheaton North could not have asked for a better start on Saturday. A 50-yard pass from Max Howser to Hudson Parker set up Walker Owens’ 2-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead with 4:36 left to play in the opening quarter.

After the Falcons defense forced a punt that resulted in a drive that started in Blue Devils territory, Owens gained 26 yards on four carries before Howser connected with Rich Schilling on a 25-yard touchdown strike to make it 14-0 after one quarter.

Unfortunately for the hosts, they were blanked over the final three quarters while the Quincy offense got on track. The Blue Devils closed to within 14-12 at the half following an 86-yard pass from Bradyn Little to Adon Byquist.

Byquist finished the game with nine catches for 186 yards, while Little caught fire and finished with 302 yards passing. After opening the game 4 for 13 for 44 yards, the Quincy quarterback went 15 for 18 to lead his team to the next round.

For the Falcons, Owens finished with 79 yards on 18 carries and also excelled on defense, as did Joe Barna and John Tarpeh, who did their best to contain the Blue Devils’ high-powered attack.

“It’s obviously not what we wanted,” said Owens, who has not decided on a college yet, but plans to play football. “But we’ll look back at this as a positive. Great teammates, great people. I couldn’t ask for a better season.”

The final score is not a true indicator of the game, which was just 20-14 Quincy after three quarters before the visitors added an insurance score and then returned an interception for another late score.

“Obviously, that’s a great team that we just beat,” said Quincy coach Rick Little, whose son Bradyn Little is the team’s quarterback. “They have tremendous players on both sides of the ball. They played well and they got off to a big lead, but our guys hung in there and settled in. We found some things, continued to find things and pitched a shutout from there. Our guys found a way to win the battle.”