NEWS - Alumni Player

Devils' defense delivers in opening victory

5 minute read

Bill Stone, Sports Writer | Hinsdale Doings | Published August 31, 2006

Starting senior middle linebacker Matt Kajmowicz didn’t need long to become a believer of the Hinsdale Central football team’s new defensive alignment.

“It’s awesome. I love it. It’s great,” Kajmowicz said. “I used to play outside linebacker, but middle linebacker is a lot more fast-paced. You have to do a lot more stuff so it’s good.”

In Saturday’s season opener at Evanston, Kajmowicz used his newfound freedom to help the Red Devils turn in an impressive effort that shut out the Wildkits 16-0 and gave Mike DiMatteo a victory in his debut as Hinsdale Central’s head coach.

“You don’t really think in those terms until after the fact and, yeah, it’s really nice (to win). Especially when everything is so brand new, it feels real good,” DiMatteo said.

Evanston reached the 33- and 9-yard lines on its first two drives, but the Red Devils held, stopping the second threat on fourth-and-goal with free safety Nick Chenier knocking Evanston’s Northwestern-bound Michael Bolden out of bounds at the 4.

After 88 yards of offense on those drives, Evanston had 58 yards and four first downs the rest of the way.

“I was worried before, especially how they were moving the ball on us early in the game, but to shut out a team like that whose got a bunch of (NCAA Division I) athletes, I think we’re going to be awesome,” Kajmowicz said.

The Red Devils had their scoring problems as well. They only led 3-0 entering the fourth quarter on first-year senior Sean Lacy’s 27-yard field goal 1 minute, 2 seconds before halftime after Evanston’s high punt snap gave the Red Devils the ball at the 8.

The new spread triple-option offense installed by DiMatteo finally broke through. Junior Mike Imke scored his first varsity TD on an 8-yard run with 9:11 to play, and Steve Morris caught a 16-yard TD pass from new starting quarterback Zach Leathers with 2:39 left.

“You think you know what somebody’s going to do, and it’s a feeling out process — and in our case because of a new offense and a new defense (there’s the thought), ‘Does this stuff really work?’ It took a lot of fortitude from these kids (to win),” DiMatteo said. “We basically stayed with what we do (on defense). We just had to do it better, and that’s really what it came down to. We were a half-step off here, a half-step off there on both sides of the ball, but once we started figuring out the rhythm, we did pretty well.”

Kajmowicz (9 tackles, 2 sacks) joined defensive end and Division I prospect Jack DiNardo (10 tackles, sack) and Troy Laing (6 tackles) as the key tackle leaders in the Red Devils thwarting Evanston’s spread and I formations.

“Kajmowicz is one of those guys nobody knows about,” DiMatteo said. “Jack DiNardo is Jack DiNardo. He’s one of the best players in the state, and we’re fortunate to have him on our side.”

The Wildkits hurt their first drive with a personal-foul penalty after a third-down pass completion that turned fourth-and-1 at the 18 into fourth-and-16 at the 33. Evanston’s third drive ended when John Melbourne intercepted a pass deflected by Chenier at the Red Devils’ 35. Chase Culbertson recovered a fumble late in the third quarter.

“On defense, it’s not too much different (than last year). The last couple of years I’ve been fortunate. I’ve played several different spots on the line — inside, outside, from a stand-up position,” DiNardo said.

“In this 3-3 stack, we get an opportunity to get more speed on the field. It’s something that helps us out a lot, as well as we can get some bigger guys in there. Matt can run free. He’s stepped up huge this year. In this 3-3 stack, it’s a great spot for him. He’s very fast sideline to sideline, and he gets moving.”

The offense got moving even without standout running back Billy Auriemma, who was out with mononucleosis. After just 31 yards and two first downs in the first half, the Red Devils had 195 yards and five plays of more than 10 yards in the second.

Late in the third quarter, Leathers withstood a big hit while completing a 35-yard pass to Morris. Leathers took another big hit during the TD run by Imke, who broke a tackle two plays earlier for a 25-yard gain to the 6.

“It was a great feeling (to score). The line did outstanding the second half. So did the slotbacks,” Imke said. “I think we were off to a slow start in the first half because we were a little overwhelmed by the offense, how it worked. It gave us a little time, and we started rolling. The defense kept us in that game.”

Copyright © 2006, The Doings