SOUTH HOLLAND | Thornwood had its scoring chances Saturday afternoon against Lincoln-Way West.
Sometimes those opportunities were turned back by a stingy Warriors defense; other times, the Thunderbirds stopped themselves with miscues.
The Warriors scored twice in the second quarter, then twice stopped the Thunderbirds, who were on the verge of scoring in the second half. For good measure, the Warriors drained the final 6 minutes, 41 seconds of the game with a ball-control clinic that closed out their 21-7 SouthWest Suburban Red victory.
The win clinched a playoff berth for Lincoln-Way West (6-2, 5-1), while the loss for the Thunderbirds (4-4, 2-4) greatly reduced the window of opportunity for playoff play, due to strength of schedule.
"There's hope, but we've got to take care of the last game," Thornwood coach Will Milhouse said. "But the way we're playing right now, with the mental errors, penalties and dropped balls, we can't expect to beat anybody."
The Thunderbirds had a third-quarter touchdown called back due to a penalty and their receivers dropped a handful of passes from quarterback Patrick Bolton, who rushed for 177 yards and passed for 124 more.
With the Thunderbirds behind 14 points in the third quarter, Bolton broke free on a keeper and appeared headed for an 84-yard score, but was caught from behind by defensive back B.J. Bello on the Warriors 5. The Thunderbirds then ran the ball four times inside the tackles, but turned the ball back on downs at the 3-yard-line.
In the fourth quarter, the Thunderbirds made it to within 11 yards of paydirt, but came up short on a fourth-and-4 situation. That series included another score-saving tackle -- this one by the Warriors' Gus Mendez.
After the defensive stand, the Warriors took over at their own 7-yard line, then drained the remainder of the clock with a 12-play drive.
"We didn't play great on defense, but I loved our hustle plays," Warriors coach Mark Vander Kooi said. "Offensively, we played a good game against a tough, physical football team, and I loved our last drive."
Lincoln-Way West struck first when Nick Dangles (133 yards rushing, two TDs) shot up the middle for a 28-yard score in the first quarter. The Thunderbirds tied the game in the second quarter on a 48-yard touchdown pass from Bolton to Cedric Doxy, but the Warriors scored the final points of the game before intermission on another Dangles rushing touchdown and a 45-pass for touchdown from Kyle Millner to Adam Slattery.
"I feel like some of our key players had good games, and some of them didn't," Bolton said. "If everybody game out ready to play today, we would have had this game sewn up. We didn't come out like that."