Tyler O’Connor, Wheaton North hold off Wheaton Warrenville South

O’Connor TD run, 2-point jump pass helps Falcons to 8-7 rivalry victory

Wheaton North’s Karsten Libby carries the ball before a tackle by Wheaton Warrenville South’s Hunter Almada during a game at Wheaton North on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.

WHEATON – Tyler O’Connor had thrown two passes this season.

Without getting into detail, neither was a successful attempt.

Mostly used in Wheaton North’s wildcat formation as a runner, O’Connor made the biggest play of the Oct. 7 crosstown rivalry game against Wheaton Warrenville South with his arm.

After running for a touchdown to pull the Falcons to within one point with 9:03 left in the fourth quarter, O’Connor faked a run out of the wildcat formation and found tight end Joe Barna on a jump pass for the game-winning two-point conversion in an 8-7 Wheaton North victory.

While Wheaton North (6-1, 4-1 DuKane Conference) saw its offense stymied for much of the game, O’Connor didn’t ever sense a level of panic from the group.

“While that may not have been our best fundamentally sound game, we made the key plays when we needed to in order to come away with a victory tonight,” O’Connor said.

The Falcons found themselves in an early hole after Wheaton Warrenville South (2-5, 1-4) began the game with an 18-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that spanned the first 10:53 of the game. Quarterback Luca Carbonaro connected with Braylen Meredith on a 10-yard TD pass to give the Tigers the early advantage.

Wheaton Warrenville South’s Braylen Meredith (8) celebrates his touchdown during a game at Wheaton North on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.

Carbonaro completed all nine of his pass attempts on that first drive, but was held to just seven completions for the remainder of the night. Of the 24 minutes in the first half, Wheaton Warrenville South held the ball for 17:54 and ran 33 offensive plays to Wheaton North’s 13, holding the Falcons to 52 total yards before halftime.

“I think that set the tone for us early on,” Wheaton Warrenville South coach Sean Norris said. “To hammer out nearly 11 minutes on that drive was crucial for us. I’m really proud of the way we came out and played a complete game tonight. I thought we played a great game on both sides of the ball, but it’s a credit to [Wheaton North] and a good core group of special players they have over there that found a way to get a win tonight.”

Norris assuredly spoke of O’Connor in that core group for the Falcons. O’Connor also intercepted a Carbonaro pass in the end zone and returned it deep into Wheaton Warrenville South territory. Aside from the two-point conversion play, O’Connor completed his first pass of the season on a crucial third down to Karsten Libby to keep Wheaton North’s scoring drive alive.

Despite the lack of passing attempts this season, both O’Connor and Falcons coach Joe Wardynski have faith any time the ball is in No. 10′s hands.

Wheaton North’s Tyler O'Connor makes an interception in Wheaton Warrenville South’s endzone during a game at North on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.

“He’s a very capable thrower,” Wardynski said. “We have used him more as a runner, but it’s something we feel confident in and may look to do more of moving forward.”

“Freshman and sophomore year I was a quarterback so, I mean, I can throw the ball,” O’Connor said with a laugh. “We needed a big first down there and I’m sure they saw me in there and figured I was going to run it, but I was able to make a play there for my team.”

O’Connor finished the night with just 14 rushing yards and his touchdown.

Defensive back Matt Kuczaj had a crucial interception in the fourth quarter to help Wheaton North stay alive in the DuKane Conference race.

Meredith led the offensive charge for the Tigers with 46 receiving yards. Jake Vozza (76 rushing yards) paced the ground attack before leaving with an undisclosed injury in the second half.