VILLA PARK – Willowbrook made a name for itself this season with a potent offense, averaging almost 41 points per game.
On Saturday in a second-round game of the Class 6A Playoffs, the DeKalb football team found out what the Warriors could do on defense.
The No. 5 Barbs had trouble sustaining drives all day and fell to the No. 4 Warriors, 29-10, behind a 47-carry, 223-yard, three-touchdown performance by Willowbrook running back Jack Jessen.
"We didn't play our best football game," DeKalb coach Matt Weckler said. "We had way to many penalties and a couple missed opportunities. But hats off to Willowbrook, they are a good football team. We had to play a flawless game to beat them and we didn't do that. ... I'm proud of our seniors and how they played, and we just ran into a team that played better than we did today.
"I think we just didn't execute up to par, and that's what happens in the playoffs," he said. "You come up against good teams that have good days, and you have to be on every single day."
The Barbs (8-3) had three drives in the third quarter on which they were trailing 15-10. The first two were three-and-outs, but the defense responded each time by stopping the Warriors (10-1), including forcing an incompletion on fourth-and-4 from the DeKalb 25. That drive started on the Prairie Ridge 12, but Chris Diaz broke off a 57-yard run on the first play.
But DeKalb got it back, still down five, and reached the 47 and face a fourth-and-1. Quarterback Noah Valin threw to an open Matthew Montavon, but the pass was offline and a diving Montavon dropped it.
On the next Willowbrook drive, Diaz scored from 4 yards out.
"Honestly, I'll say our defense gave us the opportunity to take the lead a couple times," Weckler said. "We had some shots in the second half where we'd take the lead if we scored, then you never know what might happen. For us offensively we didn't move the ball, didn't maintain possession, didn't get first downs and that put the defense on the field, which allowed (Jessen) to run 40-whatever times."
DeKalb got to around midfield on its next drive but no closer, then the Warriors scored early in the fourth on a 1-yard run by Jessen to push the lead to 29-10.
"We came in focusing on him, we came in trying to stop the run," DeKalb defensive lineman Zach Donahue said. "I mean, we contained it but we couldn't fully stop it because he's a hell of a player."
The Barbs finished with 289 yards of total offense on 66 while plays, while the Warriors ran 86 plays for 520 yards. DeKalb quarterback Noah Valin threw for 177 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 50 on 14 carries.
Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth said the Warriors wanted to be physical against the Barbs.
"These guys are big up front," Hildreth said. "So we wanted to contain that and be physical. We wanted to get our ground game going, and we didn't get it going how we would have ideally liked."
Weckler said the Warriors accomplished that goal
"We couldn't maintain blocks long enough to get positive yardage after a yard or two," Weckler said. "They had guys that made tackles. I don't think they missed too many tackles until the very end of the game. That's a testament to their coaches and their fundamentals and them being ready to play football."
The Warriors advance to the quarterfinals and will face No. 1 Prairie Ridge.
Overall, Weckler said he was pleased the Barbs – who were co-champions of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East – were able to meet most of their season's goals.
"Our first goal was to win five games. We did that," Weckler said. "Our second goal was to win the conference. We did that. Our third goal was to compete in the playoffs. We did that. Three of those goals we had, we were successful doing. The other big thing is having these kids playing the game of football the right way, and we were successful as a team and a coaching staff doing that."