DeKALB – In a game dominated by defenses, Dominic Dzioban and his leg made the difference until A.J. Henning could find space.
Dzioban, the Lincoln-Way East senior kicker, made two long field goals in the second quarter with a strong wind at his back, then Henning broke through for a 56-yard touchdown run as time was winding down in the third quarter as the Griffins beat Warren, 12-0, in the Class 8A title game Saturday at Huskie Stadium at Northern Illinois University.
"We were getting little chunks all night," Henning said. "We knew it was only a matter of time before we got the big one. Sam Paliga had a great block and freed me up and I just went from there."
Both defenses prevailed throughout the game, but Henning and the Griffins (14-0) finally broke through. Jalen Hacha intercepted Warren quarterback Triante Jacobs, then Henning punched in the game's only touchdown with 41 seconds left in the third.
Warren's first first down came with 4:15 left in the third, after Josh Turner forced a fumble by Jamal Johnson, and Marc Davilla recovered it. But the Blue Devils (13-1) couldn't capitalize when Hacha picked Jacobs.
"They were tough and played aggressive defense," Jacobs said. "It was what we expected we just didn't finish through."
It was the second title in three years for the Griffins, who won the 2017 title. They also became the first team to score more than seven offensive points against Warren this season.
"We had a tough time offensively, moving the ball," Warren coach Bryan McNulty said. "Defensively I thought we did OK, but Henning got lose one time, but he's that type of player and that's going to happen. But we didn't produce offensively tonight but it's OK. It doesn't take away from a great season."
Zvonar said his team wanted to prove they were the best defense, and said he feels his team did that with the second shutout in 8A state title history – Marist shutout Loyola in 2015 according to the IHSA record book.
"We kind of laughed – it wasn't funny but scary – but we looked at some of our scores and we felt good," Zvonar said. "We saw we hadn't allowed more than two scores in a game. Then we looked at their and they hadn't allowed more than one. You don't see a defense like this at high school like Warren very often. Maybe the best I've ever seen. The guys didn't take it in an arrogant way but they said they wanted to show they were up there in that conversation too."
The Griffins caught a break in the fourth quarter when Dzioban seemingly dropped a punt as it squibbed to the left. But the referees ruled the ball hit his leg, then a Warren player, and the Griffins recovered with a fresh set of downs instead of giving the Blue Devils the ball at around the Lincoln-Way East 30.
Dzioban's first field goal came with 3:02 left in the second quarter, three minutes after he missed a 52-yarder. This one from 46 was good and the scoreless tie was broken.
As time expired in the first half, Dzioban added his second field goal – though he had to kick it three times. The Griffins were rushing on to the field as time expired to get the kick off, and as he released, Warren jumped offsides. On the second attempt, the Griffins were called for holding.
He finally booted through the third attempt, which ended up being from 45 yards. But as it went through, a Warren player crashed into him and he had to be carted off the field.
He did return in the third quarter, taking the opening kickoff. But backup Ryan Sheridan was on the field during halftime taking kicks.
"I knew this was my last game as a senior, it's a state championship, I told them I was playing," Dzioban said. "It could be broken. I will play. I wanted to go out with my brothers with a bang and I just did that."
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