Ken Ryan, Sports Writer | Hinsdale Doings | Published October 19, 2006
Hinsdale Central senior linebacker J.T. Sandstedt was hearing an earful from the sidelines during Friday’s game against Glenbard West.
“I was getting yelled at for being in the wrong spot on pass coverage all night,” Sandstedt said.
Those yells turned into cheers when Sandstedt intercepted a pass and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown with no time remaining to help the Red Devils hold off Glenbard West 26-13 in Hinsdale.
“The play speaks for itself, that ices the game,” Hinsdale Central coach Mike DiMatteo said. “J.T. deserved it. He’s one of our captains, he’s a finer person than he is a football player and it’s really nice to see a fine person like that finish off a game. He made the play when it counted and that’s a tribute to his mental toughness. That’s a moment he’ll never forget.”
Trailing 20-13 with 3 minutes, 36 seconds left, Glenbard West (1-7, 1-4 in West Suburban Conference Silver Division) marched 60 yards on 12 plays to reach the Hinsdale Central 20 with 18 seconds remaining.
That’s when Sandstedt stepped in front of the receiver and intercepted the pass from Kane Keirnan and returned it all the way to clinch the victory. “I knew we had to make a play,” Sandstedt said. “It was either do or die for us right there. Coach put me in the right spot, and I just reacted to (the pass) and was there to make the play. It was a great feeling.”
Hinsdale Central improved to 5-3 with the victory and likely locked up its sixth straight postseason appearance.
The Red Devils, who evened their Silver record at 3-3, have won two straight after enduring a three-game losing streak and close the regular season Friday, Oct. 20, at Lyons Township.
“It’s been a rollercoaster season, but we’re in the same boat as we were last year,” Sandstedt said. “We had the same record and we ended up making a deep playoff run. We’re looking forward to the rest of the season. We just had to shake the rust off, and I think we’re on the upswing.”
The game got off to a dubious start for the Red Devils.
Three plays after Sandstedt recovered a fumble to give Hinsdale Central the ball at the Glenbard West 38 on its first possession, Patrick Riley broke through the defense untouched and picked off an option pitch by Hinsdale Central quarterback Zach Leathers and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown to put the Hilltoppers ahead 6-0 after a missed extra-point kick.
“We pitched the ball, and they snuck underneath our block,” DiMatteo said. “I have never seen that before. It’s a hustle play, and they took advantage of a mistake. A play like that can break a lot of team’s backs. That’s a tough way to start, especially when you think you’re going to roll into the end zone. Our kids bounced back, and I was real proud of their fight.” Hinsdale Central grabbed a 7-6 halftime lead when Leathers capped a 16-play, 91-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 9:25 remaining in the second quarter.
Senior Steve Morris gave the Red Devils a 20-6 lead when he scored on a 15-yard run midway through the third quarter and added a 19-yard TD run immediately after an interception by Ryan Murphy with 9:12 left in the game. “I’ve been having a slow year personally, so it feels good to have that monkey off your back,” said Morris, who rushed for 66 yards on 11 carries and caught a 54-yard pass. “I thought our effort and overcoming adversity was better than it had ever been today. When you put those two together, we’ll be dangerous in the playoffs.”
Following Morris’ second touchdown, Glenbard West pulled within 20-13 when John Macleary returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a TD. That score only set the stage for Sandstedt’s late heroics.
“I kept telling the defense, ‘One more play.’ And when I saw J.T. break out, I knew it was over,” Morris said. “As soon as he caught it everybody just erupted. I didn’t even need to see the run. I just went all the way (behind the bench) and into the end zone and gave him a big hug. He saved the game for us.”
Hinsdale Central came up with another strong defensive effort, led by Matt Kajmowicz (9 tackles, sack), Jack DiNardo (6 tackles, 2 sacks), Nick Chenier (11 tackles), Chase Culbertson (7 tackles, sack) and Jon Rogowski (7 tackles, sack).
Copyright © 2006, The Doings