There hadn't been many handshakes to go around for the Warren football team to this point in the season, but junior linebacker Erik Johnson made up for that as he left the field on a homecoming night in Gurnee on Friday.
The high-fives, handshakes and pats on the back were well-deserved as Johnson was a key factor in a major turning point in the Blue Devils' North Suburban Lake division tilt with Zion-Benton.
In a span of only 55 seconds, Johnson pressured Zion quarterback Alex Pasiewicz into an incomplete pass and recovered a fumbled that he and teammate Matt Miller forced; Johnson carried it in for a touchdown.
Johnson then followed up with an interception that turned into another Warren touchdown and a 28-0 lead four plays later.
Johnson's efforts combined with a season-best effort from junior quarterback Adam Reuss, lifted Warren to its first win of the year, 48-6.
The 48 points were just 6 shy of the total points Warren had scored in total through its first four games.
"Five weeks and we finally got one here," said Warren coach Dave Mohapp. "We had some challenging weeks as far as getting into the win column, and I am happy with the way they played."
After Warren (1-4, 1-2) built a 14-0 lead on a pair of Reuss touchdown passes, Johnson and the defense began to dig in even more. On the second play after the Warren score, Pasiewicz found himself under heavy pressure again from Johnson and Miller. Inexplicably, Pasiewicz tried to throw the ball backwards but instead it found most of the Warren defense.
The ball bounced on the turf before Johnson scooped it up and made like the one-time quarterback he was as a freshman.
Johnson followed the scoop and score with an interception three plays later. Junior running back Davonte Wilcox (16 carries, 113 yards) broke the game open with a 7-yard scoring run the Blue Devils had taken control of Zion (1-4, 0-3).
Reuss complemented Wilcox performance with his best effort of the season to this point. Reuss completed 13 of 18 passes for 158 yards and two scores.
"(Adam) is a very good quarterback," Mohapp said. "He doesn't say much, but he is a tough kid and has gotten better each week this year and his growth reflects how our offense is doing."