By Bob Vavra
For the Bugle
Even with Maine South again putting up a bunch of points in Friday’s win over Fremd, it was one defensive play that turned the tide for the Hawks.
Trailing 13-7 with 2 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first half, the Vikings elected to go for the first down on fourth-and-one at their own 27 yard line.
Seniors Jack Leach and Andrew Masterson smothered Fremd back Rasheed Amos for no gain, giving the ball back to the Hawks with a lot of time and a short field.
The host Hawks took full advantage, efficiently covering the 27 yards in just two minutes.
Fotis Kokosioulis’ third touchdown of the first half, a 4-yard run with 34 seconds left, staked Maine South to a 20-7 lead at intermission, and the Hawks would up dissecting the Vikings 37-14.
The undersized Maine South defense has yielded an average of 28 points a game after three weeks, and head coach Dave Inserra knows his team will continue to be tested.
“Teams are going to try and grind it out on us,” Inserra said. “We’re not the biggest team defensively, but we’re going to have to make up for it with our speed.”
The Vikings came out with a plan to run the ball, and used six different backs to roll up 239 yards on the ground.
Most of that came on the Vikings’ two scoring drives of 73 and 95 yards. For most of the rest of the night, the Hawks defense kept the Vikings from generating much momentum, and the Hawks’ high-wattage offense continued to sparkle.
Kokosioulis carried 18 times for 123 yards, including a 34-yard scoring run midway through the first quarter on Maine South’s first possession that got the Hawks out to a 6-0 lead. His 59-yard punt return late in the first quarter set up his second touchdown run, a 1-yard plunge early in the second quarter that made it 13-0.
Inserra turned quarterback John O’Sullivan loose in the second half. The 6-3 senior opened the second half with a 24-yard strike to Bobby Inserra to the 40, and then found Rory Hayes for 35 yards on a nifty pump-and-go route to the Vikings’ 5.
One play later, O’Sullivan kept the ball on the option for the score from 1 yard out, and the Hawks were in control at 27-7.
“At the half, we talked about giving him a little more leash,” said Inserra. “John made some really nice plays. It’s only his third game at quarterback, but I thought he managed the game well and got the ball into the right people’s hands. He made some good reads out there.”
O’Sullivan finished 12 of 19 passing for 205 yards. He capped the night with a 60-yard bomb to Cam Stacy with 5:51 to go that finally finished off the Vikings. O’Sullivan completed his first nine passes of the night, but only threw for 43 yards in the first half before firing deeper passes in the second half.
The road won’t get easier for Maine South. Waiting in Palatine Friday night are the Pirates, who were eliminated by Maine South 28-14 in last year’s Class 8A semifinal, the last stop before the Hawks claimed the 8A title over Loyola.
The early struggles on defense for the Hawks came against two of the top teams in any class—Glenbard West and Lincoln-Way East. Friday’s win came again a Vikings team that had scored just three points in its first two games.
So, Inserra knows he’s going to have to keep the offense highly tuned—the Hawks are averaging 42 points a game—and count on the continued improvement of his defense and of O’Sullivan. “Offensively, we’ve got some weapons,” Inserra said. “We’ve got to be smart about how we handle the ball.”