McHENRY – Dom Caruso was going to do everything in his power to make sure his last high school football game for McHenry didn’t end with him being helped off of McCracken Field.
The senior quarterback missed the last four minutes of the first half and the first series of the second half after injuring his left leg Friday night. But he came back in with his ankle taped and helped deliver a 28-13 Fox Valley Conference victory for the Warriors that spoiled Burlington Central’s playoff hopes.
“The sideline was boosted up, I was boosted up and everyone was more excited and ready to go,” McHenry senior running back Dylan Drumheller said of Caruso’s gutsy return.
“It hurt really bad, I’m not going to lie,” Caruso said after hitting 11-of-15 passes for 210 yards. “Once the tape went on it and the trainer looked at it, it definitely felt better. I had to fight for the seniors and the people around me.”
McHenry (4-5, 4-5) never trailed as seniors Eli Nothdorf, John Gacek, Max Smits and Caleb Rezmer and junior Jesus Saavedra paved the way to advantages of 381-208 in total yards and 65-40 in plays on Burlington (4-5, 4-5). Drumheller rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries.
“It felt like everyone was super physical, which is something we lacked in a few games, even with a new (five-man) defensive front we haven’t seen all year” said Nothdorf, who entered the starting lineup in the final game of his freshman year. “We wanted to go out the right way and we wanted to go out with a win.”
Drumheller scored on 2- and 1-yard runs to put McHenry up 14-7 with 11:18 left in the first half. Burlington sophomore quarterback Jackson Alcorn (9-for-22, 159 yards) threw touchdowns of 10 yards to Joseph Kowall and 44 yards to Michael Person to get the Rockets within a point at halftime in its quest for its first playoff trip since 2014.
“That’s a position we’ve been in all year,” Burlington coach Brian Iossi said, “but we didn’t come out with the fire I’ve seen at times in the second half.”
McHenry did as Caruso came back in and hit Zack Maness (3 catches, 84 yards) for 57 yards to set up Drumheller’s 1-yard touchdown run. A 26-yard toss to Jacob Zarek (8 catches, 126 yards) led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Evan Griffiths with 27 seconds left in the third.
“The O-line was clicking, the running backs were running hard and our receivers caught the ball,” Caruso said. “I just wanted to win for the seniors.”
McHenry senior Patrick Ostapowicz sealed the victory with interceptions in the end zone on third-and-goal at 9:20 and off a tipped pass by Joey Crowley at 5:23.
“The last two weeks we played really well,” said McHenry coach Joel Beard after his team won four of its final five games. “I’m so proud of these guys.”