UNION TWP. | Football games won in August are nothing more than building blocks in the grand scheme of a season. Football games won in the postseason are where legacies are born.
Boone Grove entered Friday night’s sectional tilt against Wheeler with two Week 1 victories over the Bearcats in the last two years, but the rivals had never faced each other in the postseason.
Using a resilient defense, the Wolves pulled out a gritty 7-6 victory and, in turn, earned the biggest win in program history.
“This is going to keep pushing our program up and up,” Boone Grove coach Tony Tinkel said. “This is really something special.”
The Wolves (8-2) looked more like a team playing their first game in August during the opening half as they struggled to move the ball offensively. With just 63 yards in the first half and trailing 6-0, Tinkel and his coaching staff reassured the team at halftime.
“Our concentration level wasn’t where it needed to be,” Tinkel said.
Boone Grove looked focused in the second half and comprised a 11-play, 67-yard drive that culminated with an Evan Stewart eight-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. The drive was hard-nosed football that resulted in all but one running play.
“The offensive line opened up some holes and got us the space we needed,” Boone Grove senior Alan Espino said.
With the offense giving Boone Grove a 7-6 lead, the defense went to work. Wheeler quarterback Riley Smith threw interceptions on his last three pass attempts and his only completion was a 28-yard scoring strike to Jacob Wasz on Wheeler’s opening drive of the game.
“This is the best feeling I’ve ever had in high school,” Espino said after adding yet another interception to his resume. “I didn’t think we’d draw these guys, and it was a great win for us.”
The Bearcats were snake-bit by penalties all night. The most egregious came in the second quarter when Wheeler blocked a punt and began a drive at the Boone Grove 20-yard line, only to accrue two penalties on a drive that lost 14 yards and resulted in a Wheeler punt. The Bearcats (5-5) finished with 10 penalties for 80 yards while the Wolves weren’t called for their first accepted penalty until late in the fourth quarter.
“That absolutely killed us,” Wheeler coach Tony Klimczak said. “We had a lot of opportunities and physically we were beating them. We just made too many mistakes.”