IHSA 4A Playoffs: Wheaton Academy extends historic run, ends Sandwich’s

Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com
Wheaton Academy quarterback Brett Kasper throws a touchdown pass during the second quarter of the Class 4A quarterfinal game against Sandwich in West Chicago Friday.

WEST CHICAGO – Wheaton Academy makes history with each football game it wins.

Playing in their first state quarterfinal Friday, the Warriors beat Sandwich 42-7 at Performance Trust Field in West Chicago.

No. 4 seed Wheaton Academy (11-1) advances to a Class 4A semifinal against Saturday’s winner between No. 7 IC Catholic and No. 11 St. Laurence.

“The defense again game through,” Wheaton Academy coach Jim Johanik said. “Offensively we did what we were supposed to do. We were able to spread the ball out, at the same time we can run it.

“And if we continue doing this, we’ve got a shot against teams that are going to be bigger and more experienced in the postseason than we are.”

If it wasn’t historic for No. 8 Sandwich, which reached the 2010 semifinals, it felt like it.

Sandwich (8-4) didn’t field a varsity team last season. It was 0-9 in 2021.

“I’m struggling to have tears right now because I’m so proud of this coaching staff, these young men and what this community’s been able to accomplish,” said coach Kris Cassie, holding a quarterfinal plaque.

“We’re bringing home some hardware – not the one we wanted, but you know what? This is going to go up on the walls forever. We always talk to the seniors about leaving a legacy, and what a legacy they left.”

Wheaton Academy scored on four straight possessions to post a 28-0 halftime lead.

Warriors quarterback Brett Kasper ran 7 yards for a score, then capitalized on great field position for a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brett Dieter.

Kicker Ethan Head, who created touchbacks on 5 of 6 kickoffs and averaged 46.5 yards a punt, made it 14-0 at 3:01 of the first quarter. Head was 6 for 6 on extra points.

Sandwich’s Cole Leeper also boomed a 57-yard punt, pinning Wheaton Academy at its 1-yard line, where a penalty pushed the Warriors back a half-yard.

Not to fret, Kasper rolled right, avoided pressure and passed to Giovanni Spinelli. The Carol Stream junior caught the ball at his 37-yard line and outraced speedy Simeion Harris for a 99-yard touchdown.

“It was a gutsy play call on the goal line to have me roll out where I don’t have much room to escape anything, but I trusted my coaches, I trusted my receiver and threw it out to Gino, and he made a play,” Kasper said.

Spinelli finished with four catches for 160 yards.

Wheaton Academy finished its first-half scoring on a 75-yard drive capped by Brandon Kiebles’ 1-yard run behind lineman Kolonati Zibaya, brought in to play fullback.

Through one half against Sandwich’s unfamiliar wishbone offense, Wheaton Academy allowed 66 yards, all on the ground. For the game, defensive tackle Robert Grant made 13 tackles, three for loss.

“It was just something new to get used to, but our coaches [Justin Swider and Mike Swider Sr.] prepared us well for it,” said two-way lineman Hampton Gryniewicz.

Sandwich had threatened to hit a long pass and did so early in the third quarter on Brady Behringer’s 41-yard fly to Calvin Lane Jr.

That and Harris’ 13-yard run led to Behringer’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Brodie Case. Nate Hill’s kick trimmed Wheaton Academy’s lead to 28-7 at 3:21 of the third quarter.

The Warriors immediately countered on Kiebles’ 35-yard touchdown run. Greyson Kelly added a 1-yard touchdown run at 11:25 of the fourth quarter.

It ended Sandwich’s fantastic comeback story.

“Everyone was doubting us in the beginning of the season, everyone was doubting us before that,” said running back Parker Anderson, who matched Harris’ 53 yards rushing.

“But this Tribe 122, the 122nd year of this program, we all came together at the beginning of the season, we’re like, we’re tired of losing, we’re tired of everything. So let’s go get this thing done. And we got it done, and I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”