Warren's Trinate Jacobs celebrates their win over Brother Rice in their IHSA Class 8A Semi-final playoff football game at Warren High School on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. in Gurnee.
Warren's Trinate Jacobs celebrates their win over Brother Rice in their IHSA Class 8A Semi-final playoff football game at Warren High School on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. in Gurnee. — Gregory Shaver for Shaw Media

GURNEE – Four times in the first half, Brother Rice drove deep into Warren territory. The Crusaders came away with zero points.

Warren's defense continues to live up to the hype.

The Blue Devils (13-0) kept Brother Rice (8-5) off the scoreboard Saturday in a 28-0 shutout in the IHSA Class 8A state semifinals. Warren will meet Lincoln-Way East in the Class 8A state championship at 7 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

It marks Warren's first trip to state in program history. The Blue Devils had never reached the semifinals before. Students and fans celebrated on the field after the win.

“It’s for the community,” coach Bryan McNulty said. “You just see everybody so happy. It’s something that’s really brought a positive image to the school."

Warren’s defense pitched its sixth shutout of the season. The Blue Devils have allowed 40 points in 13 games (3.1 points per game), with no opponent scoring more than seven points in a game.

The four times Brother Rice drove past the Warren 30-yard line in the first half, the Crusaders turned the ball over on downs twice, punted once and had a field goal attempt blocked.

“We’ve got to punch it in,” Brother Rice coach Brian Badke said. “Got to punch it in. A field goal, I thought was a little stretch for us right now.”

With a freshman kicker, Badke felt more comfortable going for it twice. The blocked field goal attempt was from 34 yards.

For a while, it looked as if it would be a 0-0 game at halftime. Warren drove 77 yards in about two minutes and scored a touchdown with 34 seconds remaining before half. Receiver Christian Phillips pulled in an 8-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trinate Jacobs.

The third quarter was a similar defensive struggle until a strange touchdown gave Warren a seemingly insurmountable 14-0 lead.

Warren running back Derrick McLaughlin took a hand off and was stuffed at the Warren 30-yard line. Or so it seemed. McLaughlin broke through the pile and found room to run – only to fumble at the 50-yard line.

Phillips, following behind his teammate said, “It’s mine.”

“Any time I see a ball, I think it’s mine,” Phillips said. “At that time, I was at the right place and I finished the play.”

Phillips picked up the fumble and ran the next 50 yards for a touchdown.

After the game, Badke questioned whether the play should have been blown dead when McLaughlin was originally stuffed.

“It is what it is,” Badke said. “Congratulations to Warren.”

“My linemen pushed me out of the pile,” McLaughlin said. “[I] tried to break it loose.”

The fact is, Brother Rice’s offense couldn’t generate any momentum against the Warren defense. Running back Willie Shaw finished with 92 yards on 13 carries. Brother Rice totaled 172 yards for the game.

McLaughlin added a third-quarter touchdown and finished with 97 yards on 20 carries.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Warren’s Josh Turner added an 85-yard interception return touchdown, weaving in and out of opponents.

“I just read the ball and played my keys,” Turner said. “When I caught the ball, I just saw nothing but the blue” – the Warren end zones are blue – “my pride stepped in and I knew nobody was going to stop me.”

Nobody stopped Turner, and nobody was going to stop Warren, either, from making program history.