It was an ominous start to the season Friday night for Warren and it only got worse.
Maine South senior Paul Preston returned the opening kickoff 98 yards as the No. 1-ranked Hawks then coasted to a 40-12 win in Park Ridge.
"I always think about (returning an opening kickoff for a touchdown), of course. But to think it would actually happen. It was awesome, a great feeling," said Preston, who also had a 41-yard kickoff return, plus 30 yards rushing on 6 carries, 3 receptions for 34 yards and a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Maine South assistant coach Charlie Bliss said Preston was, "fun to watch." And after the touchdown, he told Preston, "I don't think I could catch you in a phone booth."
That, though, stopped Preston.
"He looked at me and said, 'What's a phone booth?'" Bliss said, laughing. "I aged myself with that (reference)."
Warren junior Tyler Keith admitted that Preston's score was a "shocker."
Still, the Blue Devils responded as senior Patrick Kenney kicked a 44- and a 29-yard field goal on the team's first two possessions as Warren trailed only 7-6 after the first quarter.
Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti connected with Jimmy Frankos on a 5-yard touchdown strike on the first play of the second quarter and the rout was on.
The Hawks scored two more touchdowns in the second quarter before Warren quarterback Adam Reuss connected with Mitch Munda on a 9-yard TD strike with :13 remaining before halftime.
"We had too many mental mistakes, too many penalties - that's what killed us," Keith said.
Alviti struck twice in the third quarter, first rushing in from 3 yards out and then tossing a 1-yarder to Steve Sagerstom.
"They just did a great job of executing, and we did not do that consistently the way we need to (when) playing a team like that," said Warren coach Dave Mohapp. "I think our kids played hard, and when we look at this (game) film, I think we'll see opportunities that we have to be able to take advantage of, offensively and defensively."
Reuss was 14 for 27 passing for 125 yards, along with 55 yards running on 10 carries. Keith led the rushing attack with 48 yards on 13 tries. Patrick Kenney threw six passes in the second half, but didn't complete any.
"I thought Adam played very well," Mohapp said. "We want to try to protect him a little more, but I thought he threw some nice balls. Pat, too."
Alviti connected with six different receivers, including John Solari, who finished with 94 yards receiving on 5 passes.
But in the end, it was the first play of the game that everyone talked about.
"That (kickoff) set the tone," Mohapp said.
Bliss added: "Pauly makes things happen; he's something special. He's only 5-foot-3, but he's the type of player who says, 'Get on my back and I'll take you to victory.'"
And that he did.