High school football: Wilmington goes through Nashville to win Class 2A

DEKALB, ILL — Wilmington lineman Nick Sanford describes his team’s attacks simply and effectively. You can almost feel yourself allowing rushing meters while listening to him.

“Our offense is designed to slide an opponent down,” said senior lineman Nick Sanford. “Usually after the break we come out and we knock, knock, knock, knock until they get softer and softer and more holes open up.”

Wilmington has been running the double wing for decades now, so when Wildcats coach Jeff Reents says this is the best team he has had “with our power football,” it means something.

Wilmington beat Nashville 24-7 in the Class 2A state championship game Friday at Huskie Stadium. It was the 19th win in a row for the Wildcats, who also went undefeated in the short spring season.

“We’ve been looking forward to this since I was five or six,” said Wilmington senior Allan Richards. “It’s a great feeling.”

The Wildcats tried to pass only once in the game, and it resulted in a scramble by quarterback Ryder Meents. Wilmington rushed 54 times in 234 yards.

“What you see is what you get with our offense,” Reents said. “This year it’s really blossomed into something special.”

Senior Jacob Friddle had 29 carries for 159 yards and two touchdowns. His 22-yard run with 3:14 left in the first quarter opened the scoring, and he essentially sealed the victory with a 34-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

“It was one of the best moments of my football career,” Friddle said. “It was great to have everyone come over to me and hear everyone cheering.”

Junior Colin James had 19 carries for 22 yards for the Wildcats (14-0). Meents scored on a 1-yard run in the first half.

Nashville (12-2) equalized early in the second quarter on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Kolten Gajewski to Isaac Turner. It was the only significant distance that the Wilmington defense would allow until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Wilmington senior Ryan Banas intercepted a pass on Nashville’s first drive of the game, and senior Karsen Hansen blocked a Nashville punt in the second quarter.

“It was a kind of reflection of our entire season,” Reents said. “We played a good defense and were able to limit a very good Nashville offense and keep them off the field with our ball possession, and special teams also came up a lot.”

Wilmington captains Dominic Dingillo (59) and Allan Richards (20) hoist the IHSA 2A State Championship trophy.

Wilmington captains Dominic Dingillo (59) and Allan Richards (20) hoist the IHSA 2A State Championship trophy.
Allen Cunningham / For the Sun-Times

Nashville was limited to 107 yards in total, the majority of which came on a handful of passes late in the fourth quarter. Gajewski was 6-on-21 passes in 112 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

The Hornets, who rushed to -5 yards, defeated higher-seeded teams in the second round, quarterfinals and semifinals.

“We could not maintain any kind of running game,” Nashville coach Stephen Kozuszek said. “They forced us into some transient situations. And maybe I gave up the run too quickly. But you can not just put all the blame on us. You have to give them credit. They are a very, very good defense. No one was very successful in that. score on them all season. And with good reason. “

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