ROCKTON Willowbrook traveled a long way to show just how far its football program has come in a short time.
The 14th-seeded Warriors, who were winless last season, still had legitimate hopes of going even further when they trailed by just 3 points at halftime in their Class 7A playoff opener at third-seeded Hononegah late Saturday afternoon.
But the Indians (9-1) rebounded from an error-filled first half and scored on all four of their full second-half possessions in a 39-16 victory, which ended the remarkable turnaround season for Willowbrook (6-4).
If we come out and play we can beat anybody we play, Willowbrook do-it-all senior quarterback Dom Battaglia said of his teams mindset entering the game. I thought we were going to win at every point.
Even though the Warriors were a field goal from tying the game at the break, they also knew they didnt take advantage of 4 recovered fumbles two by Battaglia and one each by Joe Galinsky and Robert Enescu and an interception by Nick Kilianek. A 38-yard field goal in the first quarter by Paul Yacoub put them, ahead and 3-yard touchdown run by senior Brandon Smith cut their deficit to 13-10 with 9:35 left in the half.
We felt great, but we also knew we should have had more points than we did on the board, Battaglia said after a pair of stalled trips into Hononegah territory at the end of the half.
We had opportunities and we squandered some opportunities, said Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth, whose team was penalized 11 times for 81 yards in the first half. We didnt finish a couple of drives early, but we put ourselves in position to win the football game.
Hononegah, which hosts No. 6 Lake Zurich next week, started the half by forcing a three-and-out and touchdown runs of 6 yards by Alex Martin and 3 yards by Jake Wilson made it 26-10 with 1:02 left in the third.
We just talked about eliminating penalties, hanging on to the ball and playing the way we know we can play, said Hononegah coach Tim Sughroue after his team finished with 449 total yards.
Willowbrook got within 26-16 with 8:29 left when Battaglia scrambled and found Jeremy Kucik in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 3.
But two plays later Martin scored from 51 yards. Joey Welsh added a 28-yard touchdown pass to Wilson at 3:12 to get Hononegah thinking about next week and Willowbrook looking toward a brighter future.
Ever since our freshman year we wanted to get to the playoffs as seniors and we got it done, Battaglia said of the Warriors first postseason trip since 2007.
They put us back where we want to be, Hildreth said. The things this senior group has done for the program cant be measured.