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It's the battle of the unbeatens for Seneca, Wilmington

The Irish try to beat the Wildcats for the 1st time since 2001

Seneca's Austin Applebee goes up and tries to make a catch in a game earlier this year against Peotone. The Fighting Irish won that game and three others to head into Friday's game at Wilmington unbeaten.
Seneca's Austin Applebee goes up and tries to make a catch in a game earlier this year against Peotone. The Fighting Irish won that game and three others to head into Friday's game at Wilmington unbeaten.

SENECA – The last team to defeat Wilmington in an Interstate Eight Conference Small Division varsity football game went on to win a state championship.

Since falling to Plano 13-8 on Sept. 29, 2007, Wilmington has won 29 straight conference games and five straight conference championships. The Wildcats have outscored Small opponents 1,207-248 during that time.

Their domination over Seneca dates back further. Wilmington has won 11 straight over the Fighting Irish, outscoring them 467-99, since last losing 25-7 on Oct. 12, 2001.

Never during either streak have the Wildcats faced an opponent relevant to that streak which came in undefeated. That will change when 4-0 Seneca visits Wilmington Friday night.

“They’ve been the class of the conference for a good long time, haven’t lost a game in the Small in a long time,” Seneca coach Ted O’Boyle said of the Wildcats. “It’s going to be a big challenge for our club, but I think we’re ready for it.”

Two Wilmington backs – Nick McWilliams (44 carries, 399 yards and five touchdowns) and Austin Skoryi (20 carries, 183 yards) – are averaging more than 9 yards per attempt this season. A third, Alex Zlomie, has rushed 46 times for 319 yards and four touchdowns.

Quarterback Mason Southall has carried 25 times for another 38 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns.

Southall has completed 13 of his 22 pass attempts for 251 yards. His most productive receiver, Joe Mann, has five catches for 63 yards.

“They’re more of a running [team], not shotgun too much, more of just under center,” Seneca co-captain Matt Johnson said. “We have to stop their run.”

Seneca’s Bo Taylor has rushed 72 times for 720 yards and nine touchdowns. The only other Irish player with more than 47 rushing yards is Tommy Lovett, who has carried 72 times for 435 yards and three scores.

Taylor has completed 8-of-26 passes for 127 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions. Austin Applebee has five catches for 63 yards, though Ben Barnett, who has three catches, leads the team in receiving yardage with 64.

“I am very impressed with the Seneca football team,” Wilmington coach Jeff Reents said. “It is easy to see why they are undefeated – their line play is outstanding, and Taylor and Lovett are very impressive. Coach O’Boyle is doing a great job. It is going to be a great challenge for us.”

Wilmington has outscored its opponents 119-19 this season, while Seneca has the same record despite a more modest 105-71 point differential. The teams have had two common opponents.

Seneca defeated Sandwich by a larger margin (34-21) as did Wilmington (13-7), but Wilmington was a 42-12 winner over the same Westmont team Seneca beat just 29-28 last Friday.

“The whole week before, when we went against Westmont, it seemed like everyone was a little laid back and a little more confident that we were going to win,” Seneca defensive back Baley Lejawa said.

“We’re still confident going into Wilmington, but we’ve definitely ... got our heads straight this time and ready to play.”

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