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Feel the magic as WWS wins 26-22
By Kevin Schmit | Daily Herald Staff

Wheaton Warrenville South linebacker Pat Dansdill lets out a scream after the Tigers' 26-22 victory Friday night.


Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

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Published: 11/3/2007 12:40 AM

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As the clock ticked down on another legendary Wheaton Warrenville South victory, Mark LaBelle's voice boomed on the sideline.

"We've got the magic in us!" he kept yelling.

It was a far different tone than at halftime when he and teammate Will Matte gave a fiery pep talk to the team as it floundered in a deep deficit.

Refusing to lose yet again, the Tigers scored the game's final 19 points to rally for a 26-22 victory over St. Rita in Friday's Class 7A second-round playoff football game in front of 7,000 fans at Red Grange Field in Wheaton.

Senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run with 1:02 left in the fourth quarter.

St. Rita quarterback Jason Kafka moved the Mustangs to the Tigers' 42-yard line, but the drive ended when Phil Traynor stripped the ball from Kafka and Pat Dansdill recovered it to seal the win.

With its 25th straight victory top-seeded WW South (11-0) advances to the quarterfinals against today's winner between Morgan Park and Glenbard West.

"We came in at halftime and the two captains, LaBelle and Matte, gave a great inspirational speech that got us going," Piatkowski said. "The coaching staff told us to relax, that we've got the play calls down and we're going to execute in the second half."

St. Rita (7-4) led 22-7 well into the third quarter when the Tigers began their comeback -- mainly through the air as Piatkowski completed 23 of 32 passes for 304 yards.

First came a 15-yard touchdown pass to Chris Schweighardt, who had 8 catches for 108 yards, with 2:42 left in the third. Mike Sloboda also had a great night with 9 catches for 103 yards.

A fourth-down stop of Kafka, who rushed for 147 yards, gave the ball to the Tigers early in the fourth. Seven plays later Peter Jarrett scored from 7 yards out and, after a failed 2-point run, they trailed 22-20 with 7:48 left.

The Tigers got another stop on St. Rita's next possession, and a 20-yard punt set up WW South at its 40-yard line with 4:20 left. It took 11 plays and 3 third-down conversions -- including one on a pass interference call near the goal line -- but the Tigers eventually worked for Piatkowski's game-winner.

"I didn't think we could outenergize that Naperville North game, but we played some pretty inspiring football in that second half," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch, referring to his team's triple-overtime win over the Huskies two weeks ago. "Much credit to the kids. They showed their true spirit."

Tigers linebacker Sam Burke tied the game in the first quarter with a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown. St. Rita took a 19-7 lead to the half, however, on Kafka's 18-yard touchdown pass to Drew McGowan.

St. Rita outgained WW South 219-134 in the first half, a half featuring minus-2 yard rushing for the Tigers.

"They're a great team and they definitely outplayed us in the first half," Burke said. "But then we came back with fire in the second half."