WHITING | Whiting coach Jeff Cain has said it all year -- if the Oilers are going to have a chance to win a sectional, they are going to have to learn to string together four quarters of good football.
After sputtering on offense the last couple weeks in the passing game, Whiting senior quarterback AJ Veloz started out 9-for-9 and threw for 204 yards and two scores in his team's 29-17 opening-round win over LaVille in Class A Sectional 41 action on Friday night.
After the Oilers (9-1) stalled on their first drive thanks to two penalties for 35 yards within the first three minutes, they finally got on the board with a Veloz 1-yard run,which was set up by a 69-yard pass to senior wideout Keegan Rooke.
On LaVille's next drive, senior quarterback Cameron Gurtner took an option run 69 yards down to the 1.
But the Oiler D tightened up and stopped the visiting Lancers (4-6) on three straight plays, as they had to settle for a Jordan Smith 18-yard field goal.
"That was a huge moment for us," said Cain. "A lot of (the learning how to play four quarters) has to do with the senior group."
"We told them that they better figure it out because you're only guaranteed one game, and they understand what it takes."
After only netting yards on his first nine touches, junior running back Ethan Young got it going with a 40-yard run, which set up Veloz's 9-yard TD pass to sophomore Mitch Alicea.
"They decided to stop the run first, and (Whiting offensive coordinator Jim) Verta has made me into the quarterback I am today," said Veloz. "I have a lot of confidence in the receivers."
LaVille capitalized on an 84-yard kickoff return from Levi Lucas and Ethan Kertai plunged in two plays later from five yards out to cut it to 14-10.
After a Young fumble, the Lancers couldn't take advantage, as they went three-and-out on the ensuing drive.
Whiting's confidence in Young didn't falter, however, as he ran for 27 yards on the next Oiler drive, including a 1-yarder to finish it off and extend the Whiting lead to 11 with 5:51 left in the third.
LaVille would not go away, though, after answering with a 30-yard TD run by Kertai with 2:07 left in the third on a counter play in which he went untouched.
After a 21-yard run from Gurtner to start the fourth, Whiting caught a break after Lucas' 66-yard run on the next play was negated because of a holding call.
The Oilers got the ball back and held it for more than five minutes, scoring on a Veloz TD pass to sophomore Martin Petruf to put them up for good.
"If they try to stop the run, we'll go to the pass," said Veloz. "But even if I go 1-for-7 like last week, I'll still take it because it's a win."