Warren overcomes slow start to top Barrington in Class 8A playoff opener

GURNEE — Barrington did what a heavy underdog should, especially two days before Halloween — put a significant scare into the host Warren Blue Devils on Friday.

But after falling behind 9-0, Warren was able to get back to what it does best — run the ball — and controlled the second half to earn a 27-9 victory in an Class 8A first-round contest in Gurnee.

The Blue Devils (9-1) will face the winner of Saturday’s Glenbard North at Bolingbrook game next week.

“We switched up a little bit, changed to zone instead of our usual power (blocking) scheme.” Warren running back Maurice Edwards said. “It worked out a lot for us. We just kept fighting. Just 5:30 in the morning every day, we keep fighting. We don’t quit.”

Running room was hard to find in the first half, but Edwards finally broke loose for a 52-yard gain on Warren’s third play of the third quarter. Three plays later, Benjamin McLaughlin ran it in from 12 yards out and the Blue Devils had the lead for good at 13-9.

Edwards and McLaughlin made quite a running tandem on Friday. Edwards finished with 168 yards on 24 carries, while McLaughlin added 78 yards and two touchdowns on 11 attempts.

“Ben McLaughlin starts on 95 percent of the teams in the state, so he’s a really, really good running back and he showed that tonight,” Warren coach Bryan McNulty said. “Barrington’s a good program, they’re well-coached. We knew 5-4 had nothing to do with this game. We made a ton of mistakes and our kids still responded, especially in the second half.”

Rain fell for most of the game, but the wind might have been a bigger issue. Barrington kept Warren in bad field position in the first quarter and got on the board when an errant shotgun snap rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

After taking the free kick, the Broncos’ offense was able to move the ball. They used senior RB Evan Panesis up the middle, which set up QB Harley Thompson on the read option. Thompson broke loose for a 32-yard run, then Panesis scored from 12-yard out and Barrington led 9-0.

“He (Panesis) runs hard and he’s really come on,” Broncos coach Joe Sanchez said. “This is his first year playing running back. He’s really been a receiver his whole career until this year. Just proud of him and his growth, certainly did some nice things tonight.”

Barrington LB Bruno Pallan got a ricochet interception on the next defensive possession. But now working against the wind in the second quarter, the Broncos couldn’t do any damage.

When Barrington had to punt into the wind, Cassius Callahan returned it 23 yards to the 14, and Edwards scored on the next play to put Warren on the board with 4:38 left in the first half.

These teams met in the first game of the season, with Warren winning 19-0.

“We have a ton of respect for them, obviously,” Sanchez said. “But because we’ve played them several times, we know what we’re going to get, we know what we’re in for. They’ve been one of the top teams in 8A all year. It’s a playoff game, it comes down to a play or two here or there.”