NEW LENOX – Lincoln-Way West junior super sub Cal Pohrte, the quarterback with Connor Lowman nursing a shoulder injury, began the second half by making a mistake.
He fumbled the snap on the first play after the kickoff, and Dunlap recovered.
The Eagles capitalized on the break, as Zach Rusk ran 31 yards for a touchdown seconds later to slice West’s lead to 14-12. Things were getting a bit nervous for the favored Warriors.
But Pohrte knew what he needed to do. With Dunlap shutting down tailback Gabe Montalvo perhaps better than anyone had previously, Pohrte completed all seven of his second-half passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns as West secured a 35-12 victory in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs. For the game, he finished 12 of 17 for 295 yards and those three scores.
“He hadn’t started a varsity game and gave us way more than we could have expected,” said wide receiver Jake Mauney, who caught 80- and 7-yard touchdown passes in the second half to help the Warriors gain breathing room. “He was unbelievable.”
“Cal had a great game,” said receiver Dylan McHale, who caught six passes for 119 yards and the clinching 45-yard touchdown while Mauney caught four for 121 yards. “He was confident in practice. We really needed him tonight.”
Pohrte’s effort secured the victory that will send West on a long bus trip. The Warriors (8-2) will visit Troy Triad in Round 2 at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Troy is in the greater St. Louis area.
“He is a linebacker, running back, receiver and quarterback, and he does it all well,” West coach Dave Ernst said of Pohrte. “He is a high character kid. I’m not at all surprised with how he played. He made the one mistake is all, on the botched snap.
“We may have some decisions to make,” Ernst added. He said he does not know whether Lowman will be available next week.
West scored on its first possession, as Montalvo broke a 27-yard run up the middle on a fourth-and-2 play. The first of five Kevin Siemeck extra points made it 7-0 with 4:13 left in the first quarter.
Montalvo broke screen passes from Pohrte for 30- and 25-yard gains and added a second score on a 6-yard run to give the Warriors a 14-6 lead early in the second quarter. Otherwise, however, the Dunlap defense stifled him. Montalvo finished with 67 yards in 20 carries.
“We knew it would be tough to run on them unless we wore them down, and that did not happen,” Ernst said. “In the end, our passing game got them. But they are very well coached.”
West had a decent night defensively, and it would have been even better if not for allowing a couple of big plays. In addition to Rusk’s 31-yard run, Dunlap (6-4) scored on Hunter Mitchell’s 80-yard run that made it 7-6 late in the first quarter.
“Those were a couple of miscommunications,” West defensive end/linebacker Trey Telez said. “Those are easy fixes.”
For most of his night, Telez joined defensive lineman Deven Reed in putting heavy pressure on Eagles quarterback Harlan Mitchell, who completed 6 of 18 passes for 92 yards and rushed for a net of 28 yards in 16 carries.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Telez said. “He moves well and has good vision.”
Reed made one of the night’s huge defensive plays. With West leading, 21-12, Dunlap was inside the Warriors’ 40 with a fourth-and-3 late in the third quarter. Harlan Mitchell was scrambling for an apparent first down around the right side, and Reed ran him down and stopped him a yard short to turn the ball over. Nine plays later, Pohrte hit Mauney on third-and-goal from the 7 to extend the lead to 28-12.
“That was all our DBs,” Reed said of his big play. “They had everyone covered. The quarterback had to scramble out, and I was able to get him.”
Ernst credited defensive line coach Mike Franta with making an adjustment that made a big difference, “and those two [Telez and Reed] were outstanding defensively,” he said. “Our sophomore corner, Matt Murphy, played real well, too.”