A combination of game changing plays and utilizing opportunities made the difference for the Deerfield High School football team Friday in its 34-28 victory over Niles North in Skokie.
There was no shortage of Warriors adding their stamp to the win.
Whether it was Deerfield’s Brett Freedberg intercepting a Billy Voitek pass at the Warrior two-yard line and returning it 98 yards for a touchdown or Will Higginson using as much brain as skill smothering a live ball on a kickoff by his team.
“You never know when you’re going to have an opportunity,” Steve Winiecki said. “That’s why I always tell them to be ready.”
Freedberg’s interception may have been the biggest game changing opportunity of the night. With Deerfield ahead 28-21 with 6:53 left in the game the Vikings were 11 yards from tying the game when Freedberg had his opening to make a difference.
“I knew I had a good chance to intercept it,” Freedberg said of the pass he hauled in on the Warrior two-yard line. “I have to give all the credit (on the return) to . He cut the guy (the tackler) down and the rest was easy.”
Modro Shines Again
Sam Modro earned time as a running back after returning two punts for touchdowns against Maine East Oct. 5. He made plenty of the opportunity rushing for 57 of the Warriors 80 yards on their first scoring drive. He also caught a scoring pass and recovered a fumble on the Deerfield five with 4:04 left in the game that ended any chance of a Viking rally.
“We have a lot of guys who play that position,” Winiecki said. “He did real well with those punt returns last week,” Winiecki added referring to Modro’s reward for taking advantage of chances received.
Right after the Warriors tied the game with 4:05 left in the first half, it was time for Higginson to make a difference. Substituting for regular kicker Michael Maki, Ryan Kaplan popped a short kick toward the sideline.
The Vikings may not have realized a kickoff is there for the taking by anyone, but Higginson did and fell on the ball giving Deerfield possession on the Niles North 27. Three plays later a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ben Ethridge to Modro made it 14-7.
“We work on it all the time in practice,” Winiecki said. “We knew the kick would be a pooch kick. He (Higginson) saw the opportunity and took it. It’s something Will and our special teams were ready for and something we knew we wanted to do at some point.”
Balder Becomes Triple Threat
Jake Balder was another Warrior who took advantage of an opportunity to make a difference in the game. An all Central Suburban League defender last year, Balder dominates on defense and runs the ball in critical situations. He ran for a two-point conversion, a one-yard touchdown carry and an 80-yard scamper with 3:28 left in the game to give the team breathing room.
Balder also had a chance to use his arm Friday. With 16 seconds left in the first half, he took a pitch from Ethridge and threw his first touchdown pass of the season and his varsity career for 34 yards to Ben Weiss.
“We did it as sophomores,” Balder said referring to a connection with Weiss two years ago. “I knew I had him open and he did a good job of pulling in a ball I didn’t throw so well.”
By extending its winning streak to three games, Deerfield has put another opportunity in front of itself as it improved it season record to 4-4 and is now 3-1 in conference play. A victory over Highland Park at 7:30 p.m. Friday will make the Warriors playoff eligible.