September 29, 2007
BY TAYLOR BELL
It didn't matter that Downers Grove North was 1-4 for the season and 0-2 in the conference. It only mattered that Hinsdale Central's seniors were 0-3 against the Trojans. And sophomore quarterback John Whitelaw wasn't a part of it. He had to be reminded.
"All the seniors talked about how upsetting it was to lose last year," Whitelaw said. "My brother played here and I don't remember him winning the (Old Oaken) Bucket or even raising it. But I know how important it was to all of us. Everyone knew what was at stake."
Battle for the bucket
Whitelaw, who passed and ran for more than 1,300 yards in his first five games, wasn't as productive on Saturday. But he contributed as Hinsdale Central (5-1, 3-0) celebrated homecoming, claimed the Old Oaken Bucket and retained first place in the West Suburban Silver with a 21-6 victory.
Optioning out of coach Mike DiMatteo's spread offense, Whitelaw rushed seven times for 41 yards and completed 7 of 12 passes for 96 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown to Troy Laing that gave the Red Devils a 21-0 lead in the third quarter. Earlier, he threw a 23-yarder to Mac Lager and a 28-yarder to Davis Kalsbeek, then ran 14 yards to set up another touchdown.
"Whitelaw is a good athlete," DiMatteo said. "He is smart, very coachable, wants to learn and be good. But we expected a defensive game from the get-go. Some people talked about a blowout. But I knew there was no way it would happen. Good teams find a way to win and we found a way. We persevered and made things happen. Our defense did a good job."
First-year defensive coordinator Tom Dorrance directed a unit headed by noseman Pat Clegg, linebackers Kyle Larkin, Chase Culbertson and Brendan Sullivan, cornerback Rich Zajeski and safety Nick Chenier that limited Downers North (1-5, 0-3) to 50 yards in the first half.
"We refer to ourselves as the no-names," DiMatteo said. "We don't have any all-staters. Our defense isn't big but it's fast."
Hinsdale Central scored early when Zajeski, subbing for injured Brian Connor, caught a partially blocked punt and ran 55 yards to score. Nobody was more surprised than he was.
"This is only my second start at cornerback," said Zajeski, who was the No. 2 running back until last week. "I looked up and the ball was there. I thought the play was dead. Then I saw the ball was coming to me."
Laing, a senior, knows how much the "the Bucket" means. "It's a great tradition. It means more than beating Hinsdale South. The seniors remember being booed off the field last year. We wanted to show how good we are.
"Whitelaw is a close friend of mine. Everyone was in his ear all week, reminding him to stay focused and how important this game is," he said.
Downers North, which was inside Hinsdale's 10 on two earlier occasions, finally scored on Tom Benton's 10-yard pass to Art Gutzke with 1:48 to play.
Benton (11-of-25, 78 yards), a reserve on the junior varsity, was pressed into service after three other quarterbacks were injured. Joe Tokarski rushed 11 times for 81 yards for the Trojans.
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