CHAMPAIGN - Lake Zurich ended Wheaton Warrenville's 27-game winning streak with a 7-3 victory Saturday in the Illinois High School Association's Class 7A championship at Memorial Stadium.
Wheaton, which won the 8A crown last year, mustered just seven yards on 24 carries on the ground and 212 yards overall. The Tigers entered the game averaging 148 yards rushing and 303 total.
Lake Zurich, which was the runner-up in last year's 7A title game, picked up a 5-yard scoring run from Jon Janus with 5:46 left in the first half and made it hold up to win its first state title.
"We proved tonight (that) defense wins championships," linebacker Brent Marks said. "Everyone was rooting against us, saying Wheaton Warrenville was too powerful for us. Last year we didn't finish. This year we did."
Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz praised Wheaton for battling hard all night.
"But we're pretty proud of our tradition as well," he said. "Some people may say we knocked them off, but we felt we proved we were just as good."
Wheaton coach Ron Muhitch, in turn, gave credit to Lake Zurich's defense.
"By far they dominated the game," he said. "They put a lot of pressure on us. We had to make the perfect pass and they shut our run game down completely."
The Tigers (13-1) had all sorts of problems with Lake Zurich's defense in the first half, picking up 100 yards in their first five possessions.
But they received a break when a punt went off Tanner Witt's leg and Wheaton's Patrick Kelly recovered at the Bears 6 with :46 left in the second quarter. The Bears defense stiffened again and allowed 5 yards on the next three plays and Wheaton had to settle for Dan Conroy's 19-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
Wheaton picked up another break to open the third quarter when Thomas Marsh recovered a fumble on the Bears' 36 on Lake Zurich's opening drive. But the Tigers had to punt thanks in part to a delay of game penalty followed by a holding penalty.
The Bears (13-1) were able to stop the Tigers from scoring in the final four possessions.
Senior defensive back Michael Dietrich put an exclamation point on the game with an interception with :18 left.
Witt had six tackles to lead the Bears and John Brewer rang up three tackles for losses. The Bears had 14 tackles for losses plus four sacks. Kevin Johnson added an interception.
Janus led the Bears offense with 79 yards on 17 carries. Wheaton quarterback Michael Piatkowski went 18-for-28 for 205 yards.