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State Preview: Wheaton North vs. St. Rita, Class 7A state title game

Here’s a closer look at the two teams squaring off in the Class 6A title game.

Wheaton North (12-1)

Head coach: Joel Wardynski (92-51, 14 years)

Last State Title Game Appearance: 1986, won against Mt. Carmel 34-14 (Class 5A)

The Path to State

defeated Elgin Larkin 42-0

defeated Hoffman Estates 38-8

defeated Willowbrook 10-3

defeated Brother Rice 45-27

Offensive stalwart

Mark Forucci, QB: One of the state’s more accurate and dangerous quarterbacks, Forucci has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and thrown for 22 scores.

Defense stalwart

Ross Dandsdill, LB: Wheaton North’s defensive unit has done an outstanding job of frustrating opponents this season and Dandsdill was a big part of that process, particularly in his ability to stop foes behind the line of scrimmage.

The wildcard

Luke Beedle, RB: Wheaton North doesn’t rely on any one player to pile up yards, but despite a relatively low workload, Beedle has done a lot with his opportunities when he’s gotten them.

Stat Book

Wheaton North has had just four turnovers all season.

• The Falcons have held opponents to a touchdown or less in nine games, including three playoff contests, this season.

• Wheaton North only has one player with more than 10 touchdowns, but six players with at least five scores.

The skinny

Wheaton North has morphed into whatever it has needed to be to keep moving through the playoffs to this point. But the one constant has been Wheaton North’s defense, who has very infrequently struggled to keep teams much below their usual output.

St. Rita (11-2)

Head coach: Todd Kuska (216-91, 25 years)

Last State Title Game Appearance: 2019, lost against Rochester 42-28 (Class 5A)

The Path to State

defeated Rolling Meadows 42-7

defeated Geneva 28-7

defeated Hononegah 36-16

defeated Prospect 42-20

Offensive stalwart

Tommy Ulatowski, QB: Ulatowski has plenty of experience under center for the Mustangs and that came to good use when St. Rita was forced to adjust to a different look early in the year. Ulatowski has played a hand in 20 St. Rita scores this season.

Defense stalwart

Johnny Schmidt, DB: Schmidt has a way of finding himself to wherever the football is. He leads the Mustangs in tackles and also has collected seven interceptions.

The wildcard

Kaleb Brown, RB: It’s strange listing the Ohio State-bound Brown as a wildcard, but he could produce an effort anywhere on the spectrum after easing back into the regular rotation after an injury has sidelined him for the majority of his senior season to this point.

Stat Book

St. Rita is making its second consecutive championship game but its classification this time around is two classes higher. In its 2019 run to the title game, that ended in a loss to Rochester, St. Rita was not subject to the IHSA multiplier, now the Mustangs are.

• After a 1-2 start, the Mustangs have won 10 straight games and outscored opponents 355-124.

• Brown was expected to be St. Rita’s top rusher, but in his absence the Mustangs had four different runners emerge that all have at least 400 yards rushing on the season.

The skinny

St. Rita has been a picture of resilience this season, overcoming a loss of a team standout and actually performing quite well once some adjustments had been made. Now, with Brown back in the fold, St. Rita’s offensive attack is a bit more diverse and the defensive unit has been pretty steady throughout the season making the Mustangs a foe no one relishes playing right now.