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Clark: De La Salle football overcoming adversity

Oak Lawn 6/22/13--DeLaSalle's Tom DuddlestRichard's 7-on-7 passing tournament.  | Vincent D. Johnson~for Sun-Times Media

Oak Lawn, 6/22/13--DeLaSalle's Tom Duddleston, at the Richard's 7-on-7 passing tournament. | Vincent D. Johnson~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 6, 2013 6:29AM



De La Salle is where it wanted to be, but this wasn’t the route the Meteors figured to take.

Playing without its star running back, No. 1 quarterback and a few more starters, De La Salle went on the road in Week 1 of the playoffs and kept its season alive with a ­38-35 double-overtime win at Crystal Lake Central on Saturday.

Three sophomores started on offense and four on defense for the Meteors (6-4), including quarterback Tom Duddleston, who was a starting wide receiver through the first eight weeks. Instead of catching touchdown passes, he threw four of them in his second varsity start, going 15-for-26 for 201 yards.

“He’s a real competitor,” De La Salle coach Dan O’Keefe said of Duddleston, a three-sport athlete who was an all-conference pick in baseball as a freshman. “He wasn’t the least bit nervous.”

It helped Duddleston to have a veteran in the backfield, even if he hadn’t been a starter there. That was senior Collin Farley, a mainstay at outside linebacker. He stepped in for Vanderbilt recruit Mikale Wilbon and had 45 carries Saturday, gaining 187 yards and scoring one touchdown.

The one place the Meteors weren’t plugging in new bodies was the offensive line, where Ohio State-bound Jamarco Jones and Syracuse recruit Aaron Roberts were holding down the fort, as usual.

“Everybody was just playing for the team,” Jones said. “One guy goes down, another person has to step up. It’s been a rough season. I think we have (had) only one or two games playing without any injuries.”

As the personnel has shifted, so has the game plan.

“Our offense has changed a little bit,” Jones said. “We don’t have the explosive players with Shelby (Spence, the starting quarterback) and Mikale out. Now we grind on people and wear them down.”

Jones (6-5, 295 pounds) and Roberts (6-6, 295) needed to set the tone, and they did.

“It might have been their best game this year,” O’Keefe said. “The younger guys know those senior linemen have their back.”

Still, there were some tense moments. The Meteors tied the score on a pass from Duddleston to Drew Chavarria with 1:12 remaining, and Crystal Lake Central missed a potential game-winning field goal with 11 seconds left.

Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime (De La Salle on a pass by Duddleston) before Central missed a field goal in the second OT and De La Salle’s David Dominguez kicked the decisive 27-yarder.

For Jones, closing the deal was particularly sweet.

“It felt good,” he said. “The past couple years at De La Salle, we had a lot of games where it was tight and we couldn’t finish at the end.”

That wasn’t the case this time, and now the Meteors move on to host Lake Forest (8-2) at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the second round.

O’Keefe is hoping for at least one reinforcement: linebacker Anthony Pierce, the team’s leading tackler the past two seasons, is expected back after missing two games.

“As long as we have people stepping up and making plays, we should be all right,” Jones said.

That was a successful formula last week, at least.

Email: mclark@suntimes.com

Twitter: @mikeclarkpreps



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