By Scott Taylor
Plainfield North’s Zach Shelton is listed just as a defensive end on the 2015 roster.
That might change in future weeks.
Shelton was inserted in as one of three running backs during North’s season-opening game against DeKalb Friday night and immediately paid dividends.
Shelton scored three touchdowns on offense and added multiple sacks from his defensive end position as the Tigers defeated DeKalb 35-21.
“It always goes to the offensive line,” Shelton said. “They are always working hard and grinding. I can’t thank them enough. They wanted to send me in to get a few yards. When they put me in they want me to go hard. I never thought I would score three touchdowns tonight. I wasn’t even sure I would play much offense tonight, I’ve been working mostly on defense.”
“I told Zach he was going to have a really big year this year,” North coach Tim Kane said. “He did a good job for us as a junior, but he has improved so much. His confidence, his strength have grown. I thought our defense in general did a good job.”
In recent years, the Tigers have used one main runner, but Friday was different as Shelton, Niko Capezio and Tyler Hoosman all got several carries during the game.
“It was nice to use multiple running backs,” Kane said. “I thought Niko ran with a good burst, made some moves and made some people miss. I thought Hoosman was really steady and did a good job for us. Zach Shelton ran like a senior. He ran powerful and did a nice job for us.”
Both teams were able to move the ball throughout the game, but it was the Plainfield North offense, which finished drives, while its defense made multiple fourth down stops.
Shelton started the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown run less than four minutes into the game.
The Barbs answered as 6-foot, 7-inch Luke Davis III caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Derek Kyler for a 7-6 lead.
A 1-yard Shelton run put the Tigers back up in the second quarter, but a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kyler to Cole Tucker evened the score at 14-14.
With 37 seconds left in the half, JD Ekowa found Kyle Speas for a 17-yard score as North took a 21-14 lead into half.
“It all starts with our offensive line,” Speas said. They blocked well and gave our quarterback some time. The quarterback stayed composed and got it to the receivers. It’s good to have JD who has three years of experience.”
DeKalb drove down the field to open the second half, but on fourth-and-goal from the 14, Anthony Fumagalli saved the day by getting a finger on the ball to take away a touchdown and turned the ball back to the Tigers.
“Kevin Block got hurt and came out and they tried to pick on him and Anthony made a great play and knocked it out of the end zone on fourth down,” Kane said. “It was a huge play for us.”
They too full advantage of the opportunity, as they methodically moved the ball down the field in the T-Formation, and Shelton finished it off with a 1-yard run for a 28-14 advantage.
Another fourth down stop led to a clinching score, as Capezio scored from 13 yards out with 3:35 left in the game.
DeKalb added a touchdown on fourth-and-22 on a pass thrown up for grabs and recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the Tigers got another fourth down stop to finish the game.
“We want to keep finishing games and get the wins,” Shelton said.
“It was nice to get that first win, but we’re looking forward to the next game already,” Speas said. “We’re super happy and couldn’t be more proud.”
Next up for North is Bishop McNamera, who defeated IC Catholic 49-32. Jonathan Ward, a Central Michigan recruit, had 26 carries for 258 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’re hoping to go down and beat them again,” Shelton said.
“They have some pretty good players coming back,” Kane said. “Last year they came here and it was a pretty tight game going to the fourth quarter. They have some good athletes. The kids are tough. It is going to be a good environment down there.”