TINLEY PARK | Early Friday night it looked like getting starting quarterback Aaron Dunigan back would be the difference for T.F. North, but for the fourth time this season the Meteors let a second half lead get away.
Dunigan and the Meteors (2-4, 1-3 South Suburban Blue) came out and executed their game plan to perfection for the first 20 minutes of Friday night’s South Suburban Blue clash against Tinley Park, controlling the ball for 17 minutes on their first three possessions.
But the key play in the 39-28 loss to the Titans (2-4, 1-2 South Suburban Blue) came with a first and goal from the Titans eight-yard line.
It looked like the Meteors might be able to put the game out of reach early, but after two rushes for three yards a Dunigan pass was intercepted at the goal line and returned 60 yards into Meteor territory.
Three plays later, Tinley Park quarterback Kelly Quinn found Corey Doss for a 53-yard touchdown to cut the Meteor lead that moments earlier looked like it would grow to 14 down to one point at 14-13.
“We made some mental mistakes tonight,” Said T.F. North coach Artie Rogers. “We should have been up 21-7 at the half instead we have a breakdown and it’s 14-13.”
Mistakes and big plays doomed the Meteors in the second half as they never seemed to get the rhythm back in their offense.
“This is the same story in all four of our losses,” Rogers said. “We had a lead in the third quarter and couldn’t finish. We have to teach them how to finish games.”
After holding Preston Thompson, the Titans all-time leading rusher, to 22 yards in the first half, the fullback came out with a vengeance in the second, going for 154 of his game-high 176 yards and three touchdowns after the break.
Thompson broke the school rushing record on a 37-yard carry to set up the Titans fourth touchdown and give them a lead they would hold for the rest of the game.
“I’m not really much of a stat guy, it really hasn’t set in yet but it’s amazing,” Thompson said. “They held me in the first half then it was just back to basics. We ran hard the way we should every play.”
Trailing 39-20 with just two minutes left to play the Meteors never quit, Nikita Smith picked up a Quinn fumble and raced down to the Titan five yard line to set up Anthony Watkins third touchdown of the game.
After recovering the onside kick in Titan territory the Meteors still had a chance but Myles Barbee came up short on a fourth and eight, ending any hope of a comeback.
“We just have to keep our heads in the game,” said Dunigan. “We had a lead and couldn’t keep it. We have to stay focused for four quarters if we want to win games.”