Football: Stephen O’Neill does special things to help Hinsdale South win
Darien, IL - Friday, August 24, 2012: Hinsdale South's Matthew Dangles (12), Tavaris Binion (7) and Jawahn Downing (24) gang tackle Romeoville's Miguel Ford (3). | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
BOYS and GIRLS
Hosts Hornet Invite, 9 a.m.
Hosts York, 7:30 p.m.
At Willowbrook at Sugar Creek, 8 a.m.
Hosts Proviso East at Village Greens G.C., 4 p.m.
At Downers Grove N. Scramble at Downers Grove Pk. Dist., 10:30 a.m.
Hosts O.P.-River Forest at Village Greens G.C., 4 p.m.
At Red Devil Cup at Hinsdale Central, 5 p.m.
At York, 6:30 p.m.
Hosts Leyden, 6:30 p.m.
At Willowbrook Quad, 4 p.m.
Hosts Proviso East, 4:30 p.m.
At Downers Grove South, 4:30 p.m.
Hosts Lockport with Proviso Co-Op, 5 p.m.
Hosts Leyden, 6 p.m.
At Waubonsie Valley, 6 p.m.
Updated: August 30, 2012 6:20PM
Football coaches are always telling their players to be ready to start the season off on a high note.
Hinsdale South linebacker Stephen O’Neill did that on the first play of the 2012 campaign Friday night, recovering a fumble on the kickoff. Just 5 seconds into the game, the Hornets had the ball on the Romeoville 25. That set the tone for what turned into a 39-0 victory for Hinsdale South.
“We do this one kick where we kick it a little bit shorter to catch the other team off-guard and Justin Ward, our kicker, placed it perfectly,” O’Neill said. “They just weren’t expecting it.”
Romeoville’s upback hesitated as the ball reached him and that was all the onrushing O’Neill needed.
“I think it bounced off him,” O’Neill said. “I went in for the tackle and I was able to swipe it away from him and first thing I knew I just had the ball and was just trying to keep it under me.”
Five plays later, Hinsdale South quarterback D.J. Deolitsis scored the first of his three touchdowns on an 8-yard run to put the Hornets (1-0) ahead 7-0. The hosts would score on their first four possessions to take a 24-0 lead.
“O’Neill is always in the right spot everywhere; on defense, special teams, anything,” Deolitsis said. “Our kicker just placed it in the right spot and Stephen just went and got it.
“Having a big play like that, it excites the whole team, it excites the whole crowd. The offense has great field position to go in and score. It gets in the other team’s head and it puts us up and it never stopped from there.”
Indeed, the Hornets kept pouring it on, increasing their edge to 30-0 when Arian Toney scored on a 9-yard run with 1:01 left in the first half.
O’Neill struck again on the ensuing kickoff, recovering another short kick from Ward before any of the Spartans touched it.
Eleven seconds later, Deolitsis run up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown run to make it 37-0.
“O’Neill is a stud for us and what’s crazy is he’s a heckuva football player, but he’s got like a 30 on his ACT, so he’s super-smart,” Hinsdale South coach Mike Barry said of the 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior. “He teaches other kids to play chess. He’s just the epitome of a high school football player. He’s got a lot of instincts.”
Those instincts were on display again in the third quarter when Romeoville nearly blocked a punt by Ward, whose boot of 15 yards came down in a crowd along the right sideline. The ball deflected off an unsuspecting Spartan and O’Neill alertly picked it up and raced 10 yards with it before being tackled.
“I went out there every play wanting to make the tackle and if the ball was there I was just going to try my best to get it,” O’Neill said.
But O’Neill, who also played a big role in holding Romeoville to just 16 yards of offense through three quarters, refused to take all the credit for the victory.
“I think (the first play) fired up the team good,” O’Neill said. “Our offense came out that first drive and they put it in the end zone. What I did was good, but what they did put an exclamation mark on it. They were able to capture the initiative.”
The Hornets return nine starters on offense alone from last year’s 5-4 squad that just missed the school’s first playoff berth since 2005.
“I think having Coach Barry back for a second season was definitely a large help,” O’Neill noted. “Last year we were just learning the offense and the defense has been there for a while, but we have a lot of (returning) starters on the O-line. Having them there, they’re good to practice against.
“Our goal from the start of the summer has been playoffs and conference champs. That’s the goal we strive for. That’s the goal every team strives for.”