YORKVILLE — The La Salle-Peru football team knew it needed a big win Friday if it was going to turn the tide after a rough 0-3 start to the season.
The Cavaliers came through when they needed, topping previously-undefeated Yorkville 16-9 Friday at Yorkville in Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference crossover action.
“I don’t want to say the morale was down (after the start to the season), but we were hanging our heads,” L-P senior quarterback Colby Sassano said. “We knew we had to pick it up. We knew this was a team we could compete with.
“We needed this. We were coming off of three losses. This is big, this is huge. This is really going to help us going on to the rest of the season. Those first three teams were tough, but that’s in the past and now we’re looking into the future.”
While Sassano — who completed 9-of-18 passes for 206 yards with an interception and hit Cameron Mignone for a 51-yard touchdown in the third quarter — got the Cavs going with his arm, L-P senior kicker Jon Sydlowski helped seal the victory with his foot.
Sydlowski booted first-half field goals from 20 and 22 yards as he engaged in a kicker’s duel with Yorkville’s Caleb Piszczek, who drilled kicks from 32 and 33 yards out in the opening two quarters.
The four first-half field goals accounted for all of the scoring before intermission as the teams went to half tied at 6-6.
After being shut out of the end zone in the opening half, the Cavs were able to take the lead for good with a four-play, 66-yard scoring drive to start the third quarter. The drive took just 1:43 and was highlighted by the 51-yard pass Sassano to Mignone for the touchdown.
Sydlowski later added another field goal — this time from 31-yards out — with 1:56 left in the contest, and although Piszcek once again had an answer — on a 39-yard boot with 1:08 left — it was too little, too late as L-P survived a final onside kick attempt and held on for the win.
“I feel like I’ve been preparing for four years now (for these moments),” Sydlowski said. “I feel like our team did a great job of getting (down the field) and I just did my job.
“We threw away the three losses we had. We just forgot about them. We’re going to take it week-by-week. Our goal is the playoffs — it’s been like that for four years. We’re going to have a winning season, and this win is going to get us there.”
The Cavs finished with 253 yards (206 passing, 47 rushing) of total offense, while the L-P defense limited Yorkville to 222 yards (130 rushing, 92 passing) and intercepted Foxes quarterback Cameron VanBoekel twice in the contest, both in the crucial fourth quarter. Taylor Thompson recorded the first pick, while Ryan Atilano snagged the second.
“I don’t think anybody picked us to win,” L-P coach Joe Sassano said. “But we knew what we had played in the first few weeks, the kind of teams we played against. We needed a win and we needed one really bad. Now, I think with the meat of our schedule behind us — no offense to anybody else, but we’ve played some great offensive teams — we’ll find out if we’re a decent football team. This is just one win, but we beat a good football team tonight.”
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.