Benavidez carries Elmwood Park past Ridgewood
10/19/12 Norridge-Elmwood Parks Patrick McNulty goes back to pass against Ridgewood. Stacia Timonere/for Sun Times Media
Updated: October 20, 2012 1:16AM
NORRIDGE — Elmwood Park did what it does best — run the ball — and senior David Benavidez carried for a career-high four touchdowns as the Tigers won a conference title for the first time in 27 years with a 34-14 victory over Ridgewood in Norridge Friday night.
The Tigers (7-2, 3-1 Metro Suburban) amassed 271 yards on the ground, led by Benavidez with 147 yards on 15 carries. Senior James Gonzalez also went over the century mark with 121 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Benavidez, who has seen limited action in recent weeks because of an ankle injury, found the end zone in each quarter on runs of 63, 6, 26 and 14 yards.
“I felt great coming in today. I’m not 100 percent but I’m pumped with energy and I didn’t feel anything once I got going,” Benavidez said. “It’s all about our offensive line. We practice really hard and when we get to the game we just bring it to them (the opponent), and I found a lot of big holes and scored.
“This is an awesome feeling. Winning the conference, getting into the state playoffs was our dream and this year we accomplished it.”
The Tigers defense also stalled several drives by the Rebels (2-7, 0-4) with four interceptions. Ridgewood quarterback Geri Aliaj (17-of-33 passing, 139 yards, 2 TDs,) threw two scoring passes in the second half, the first to Justin Rivera from 8 yards out in the third quarter and the second to Mike Acramowicz from the 10 in the fourth.
“This is the biggest accomplishment for this school in 27 years,” Elmwood Park head coach Luis Arroyo said. “These kids have fought through adversity with injuries and when they lost their leader, Rocco Fanella (neck), early in the season they didn’t quit as he continued to be an inspiration for them, and they wear his No. 26 on their helmets.
“These kids have come in and picked each other up all year long and it’s a testament to their desire, heart and dedication. This family that we have created here believed from the start that they could do this and they did. I can’t be more proud of these kids. It’s really sensational.”
Elmwood Park’s lone loss in the conference came against Riverside-Brookfield, which lost to Fenton on Friday. The Tigers also owned the tie-breaker over Glenbard South, handing the Raiders their lone Metro Suburban defeat.
Pick up your local Pioneer Press newspaper on Thursday to read more about the Elmwood Park and Ridgewood football teams.