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October 10, 2009

2009 Season - Augustana loses heartbreaker

WHEATON, Illinois – The 4th-ranked Wheaton Thunder football team scored in the game’s final minute Saturday to hand Augustana a 24-17 defeat. When Sean Norris connected with Andy McClain on a 26-yard scoring strike with 0:18 left, it marked the fifth time in the last ten years that the Thunder beat the Vikings by putting the winning score on the board with under a minute left in the game.

Key for the Thunder in the win was the job its defense did against Augustana’s ground game. The Vikings came in averaging a shade over 200 rushing yards a contest, but could manage just 32 net yards on 29 carries Saturday. Leading rushing Robert Wood (Rockford Boylan HS, Loves Park, Ill.), who came in with 373 yards on the season and an average of 5.7 per carry, was held to 18 yards on 15 carries by the stingy Wheaton defense. Quarterback David Lee (Springfield HS, Springfield, Ill.) threw for a career-high 249 yards, completing 18-of-31 pass attempts, but the Vikings missed on three scoring opportunities that would prove costly.

Augustana took the opening kickoff and quickly forged a 3-0 lead. On the first play from scrimmage, Lee connected with Jake Parke (St. Joseph-Ogden HS, St. Joseph, Ill.) for a 55-yard gain to the Wheaton 26. The Vikings then hurt themselves with a delay-of-game penalty and, despite a 13-yard completion from Lee to Parke, were unable to convert another first down. Ryan Gibbons (Richwoods HS, Peoria, Ill.) banged in a 36-yard field goal through a stiff wind to give Augustana the lead.

After forcing a Wheaton punt, the Vikings put together an impressive drive, using a pair of 14-yard bursts by Henry Deters (Unity HS, Tolono, Ill.) and a Lee to Matt Downing (Morton HS, Morton, Ill.) completion of 13 yards to move from their own 12 to the Wheaton 31. However, when Lee’s next pass was deflected, Wheaton’s Jon Sesso was able to come up with the interception to end the Augustana threat. Norris made the Vikings pay by hooking up with Teddy Watkins for a 71-yard touchdown pass as Wheaton faced a 3rd-and-12 at its own 29 yard line. Scott Roche’s point after gave the Thunder its first lead at the 5:19 mark of the first quarter.

Augustana regained the lead just before the end of the first period when Wood pushed in from two yards out. That score was set up when the Vikings' Shane Holl (Batavia HS, Batavia, Ill.) picked off a deflected Norris pass and returned it to the Wheaton 25. It took the Vikings just four plays to reach the end zone. Gibbons’ kick made the score 10-7 after one.

The Thunder evened the score less than four minutes into the second quarter when a 30-yard field goal from Roche capped a nine-play, 40-yard drive. Augustana put together the only other scoring threat in the first half when they went 38 yards in seven plays. However, facing fourth-and-two from the Thunder 22-yard line, the Vikings decided on a field goal try. Gibbons, kicking with the wind this time, pushed the 39-yard attempt wide right and the teams went to halftime tied 10-10.

The Vikings missed another golden opportunity early in the second half. Sesso fumbled the opening kickoff and Augustana recovered at the Wheaton 30. However, after driving to the eight-yard line, Gibbons’ hooked a 25- field goal attempt wide left on fourth down and the Vikings came away empty.

Wheaton then went on a seven-play, 80-yard drive which culminated with a 38-yard touchdown pass from freshman Jordan Roberts—Norris’ back-up—to Watkins, giving the Thunder a 17-10 lead with 9:04 left in the third quarter. The teams traded punts for the rest of the period and the next scoring opportunity came early in the fourth quarter when Wheaton drove to the Augustana seven, but a pair of penalties pushed the Thunder back and on fourth-and-19, Roche’s 37-yard field goal attempt went wide left.

After the teams again traded punts, Lee took the Vikings 74 yards, connecting on passes of 44 yards to Downing and 30 yards to Zach McCullough (St. Charles North HS, St. Charles, Ill.). McCullough’s catch went for a touchdown and Gibbons’ kick evened the score 17-17 with just over eight minutes left.

Neither team could string together string together more than five plays on each of its next two drives and Wheaton eventually took over at its own 14 with 2:43 remaining. Norris skillfully guided the Thunder 86 yards, completing five of six passes for 63 yards on the drive with the final completion going to McClain for the game- winner with 18 seconds left.

Augustana was unable to put anything together after the ensuing kickoff and Wheaton came away with the 24-17 win.

Norris threw for 280 yards in the game and the Thunder running back combination of Rocky Gingg and Charlie Velling helped Wheaton rush for 144 yards on the day. Deters led the Augustana ground game with just 30 yards on three carries. Parke was Lee’s favorite target, catching eight passes for 107 yards. A couple of Vikings had big days defensively as linebacker Eric Meyer (Harlem HS, Machesney Park, Ill.) recorded 14 tackles, including 10 solo, and nose guard Jeff Daisy (Thornton Fractional South HS, Lansing, Ill.) had 3½ sacks for 21 yards in losses.

The Vikings return home next Saturday, October 17 to face Illinois Wesleyan on homecoming. Game time for that contest 1:00 p.m.