By Matt Nestor
It wasn’t pretty. For much of the game, it wasn’t even effective. But the Boylan Titans found a way to gut out a 31-7 victory in the first round of the IHSA Class 6A playoffs against the Addison Trail Blazers to move on to the next round.
“It feels good,” linebacker Sam James said of the win. “We get to have another week, another week of practice. We’re jacked for another game and another chance to get closer to a state championship.”
Things seemed to start out fine for the Titans after holding Addison to a punt on their first possession. But on Boylan’s third play of the game, quarterback Frank Cimino fumbled to give the Blazers the ball back.
On the second play after the turnover, quarterback Trevor Bermingham struck deep to wide receiver Anthony Catanese for a 34-yard touchdown for the Blazers to take an early 7-0 lead.
Following a great kickoff return by Chris Miller, the Titans were set up with great field position. But again, on the second play of the drive, quarterback Lamont Toney threw an interception to Delricien Smith.
This time, the Titans’ defense held tough and forced a punt. After moving the ball into Addison territory and ready to move in to tie the game, Aaron Einhorn fumbled the ball for Boylan, the third turnover in three possessions for the Titans.
“We were worried,” running back Tyreis Thomas said. “When you get turnovers, it’s always a factor against your team. Yes, we did get a little down. But we had a game like this against Belvidere, and that helped us with experience in this round.”
That is when the Boylan defense took the game over.
They started with an acrobatic interception by Sam James to get the ball back for the Titans.
“I didn’t know if I would get it or drop it,” James said of his catch. “The wind was blowing it around, and I didn’t know if I could get it.”
Following the pick, running back Thomas ran for 36 yards, and Cimino ran for 40 yards and capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown.
The Titans’ defense continued to hold firm, holding the Blazers to two three-and-out drives before forcing another fumble with 1:16 left before halftime.
Boylan only needed two plays to score, with Chris Miller running in from 6 yards out to give the Titans a 14-7 lead at the half.
The Titans’ defense, which played a good first half, was just digging in for the second half. They only gave up 69 total yards in the second half, and only 165 total for the game. The Titans also intercepted Bermingham three times in the second half and picked up another fumble for six total turnovers.
“They played a great second half. I think they thwarted them in a lot of ways,” Boylan Head Coach Dan Appino said of his defense. “Overall, I’m pleased with them. They’ve been a consistent strength for us all year.”
Outside of the defense, Thomas was the player of the game for Boylan. The junior running back ran for 170 yards and a touchdown in the game.
By comparison, the rest of the Titans’ offense only accounted for 112 yards.
“I just wanted to follow behind my lineman,” Thomas said. “I trust them so much, and I just wanted to get behind them to see how far I could go.”
But while Thomas thrived behind the line, averaging more than 11 yards a carry, the rest of the Titans could only manage 2 yards a carry. While Appino thought the line played well, he said much of the success is because of the ability of Thomas.
“He’s special. He’s one of those kids who can make good players miss,” he said. “Because of that, I think he makes our offense a little more effective than we block it to be. He’s a special kid, and we’re not trading him for anything right now.”
The Titans will be home again in the second round, playing host to Oak Lawn Richards, which was a 53-24 winner over Chicago Hyde Park.
From the Nov. 3-9, 2010 issue