With a 28-19 victory over the Lakeland Muskies on Saturday afternoon at the Lisle-Benedictine Sports Complex, the Benedictine Eagles football team improved to 5-0 in conference play and is now just one win away from locking up their second consecutive Northern Athletics Conference title in as many years.
It was miscues early for the Eagles, as a botched punt return and a fumbled snap gave the Muskies the ball inside BenU’s 20. However, the Eagles defense was stingy both times, forcing a missed field goal and a turnover on downs.
“From the moment we started, we were going hard and we were playing as a team,” said junior linebacker Mike Theriault. “We were setting the tempo early and keeping it going the whole game.”
While Lakeland continued to win the battle of field position into the second quarter, Benedictine would strike first. After being backed up inside their own five yard line to start the drive and facing a third and 20, senior quarterback Matt Brown was able to avoid pressure and hit junior wide receiver Chris Schultz on a 51 yard strike. Junior running back John Borsellino was able to cap off the drive with a 25 yard touchdown run, and junior kicker LJ Stolarski made the game 7-0 on an extra point.
The real momentum shift in this contest came on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter. After two third the Eagles saw a lead wither down to just 21-19, senior Derek Hitt took a kickoff down to Lakeland’s six yard line and Borsellino had a rushing touchdown on the ensuing play.
“They came back on us late in the game, and that big return by Derek Hitt kind of swung the momentum back on our side,” said Brown.
Hitt’s return came on a squib kick, as the Muskies were focused on keeping the ball away from Borsellino.
“He’s one of the best in the nation. It does things like that where teams got to always look out for him, and it leaves other guys open to make big plays,” explained Brown when asked about Hitt’s return.
Statistically, Borsellino recorded another 100-yard rushing performance, as he ran for 159 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns.
“He’s a great running back,” Brown added. “It’s the reason why he’s our captain.”
BenU’s other two scores came on two touchdown receptions by senior wide receiver Brandin Austin (six receptions, 45 yards, two touchdowns). Both of those passes were thrown by Brown, who finished 8 of 16 for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
Even with the win and a perfect conference record, the Eagles still see some improvements they can make.
“I was a little disappointed with some issues that had to do with consistency, but we won the game and we did what we had to do to win,” explained Head Coach Jon Cooper. “That’s the most important thing.”
Next, the Eagles will travel to Rockford College on Saturday at noon. The Regents are winless in the NAC.
“Monday, we’ll watch film on Rockford,” Brown explained. “We’ll look at what we can do, and it’s a matter of going out and executing, playing our game, getting these last two victories, and getting that conference championship.”
“We need to keep building on what we’ve been doing; keep building, keep winning, and shut them out,” Theriault stated.