Willowbrook seeks breakthrough
By now, Willowbrook senior quarterback Sam Tumilty is accustomed to playing three playoffs games each year. The Warriors defeated Moline 48-21 on Saturday to advance to their fourth straight Class 7A quarterfinals, where they will play at Lake Zurich at 1 p.m. on Nov. 16.
Tumilty and the Warriors (10-1) are aiming for a different result this year. The Warriors dropped a 34-27 decision to Batavia in last season’s 7A quarterfinals, suffered a 42-7 defeat to eventual 6A champion Prairie Ridge in 2017 and lost to eventual 7A champion East St. Louis 60-27 in 2016.
“I think our attitude is definitely positive and excited,” Tumilty said. “We’re happy to have another opportunity to compete as a team and get after it.
“We’re excited to be where we’re at, and we have our goals and will continue to strive for them.”
Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth admitted his team is excited for the challenge to take the program to new heights. The Warriors have a long history of tough losses in deep playoff runs, and have yet to make the finals in program history.
“It’s always tough in the moment to be reflective, for I’m still not sure we’re over the loss to Batavia,” he said. “We were waiting and hoping to get back to the quarterfinals, but you never know if you will get back or how far you will go. You only control what you control. My first year our staff went 0-9, so we don’t take a single thing for granted. You have to enjoy every win. It’s great to get another opportunity to play in the quarterfinals.
The Bears (8-3) are one of the top programs in the state, led by strong defense on all three levels. Lake Zurich held Hersey quarterback Jordan Hansen, a Northern Illinois recruit, in check in Saturday’s 14-7 win. Linebacker Bryan Sanborn is one of the leaders on a defense which limited six teams to seven points or less.
“Their defense looks physical and has some really talented players that we’ll have to be aware of,” Tumilty said.
Stopping Tumilty is the first order of business for the Lake Zurich’s defense. His passing and running numbers compare favorably to Hansen. Tumilty has thrown for 2,364 yards and 23 touchdowns to go with 1,286 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.
“At this point of the playoffs, you’re going to see teams with very good quarterbacks,” Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. “They have a really explosive offense and it’s going to be a good challenge for us.”