It’s never “Wait till next year” for Lake Zurich’s football team.
Come late October, it’s “Wait till next week.”
On a sunny fall afternoon at Lake Zurich on Saturday, in a Class 7A state playoff opener between the sixth-seeded host school and No. 11 Crystal Lake South, it was more like “Wait till Zach Till hears this.”
Connor Schrader will have to wait until next weekend for another chance to break his former teammate’s single-game school record for touchdowns.
The senior running back piled up 4 TDs at halftime and scored his fifth midway through the third quarter to tie the school mark set by Till during his senior season last year. But with Lake Zurich comfortably ahead on the scoreboard, Schrader got only 2 more carries and sat out the entire fourth quarter, watching his teammates finish off a 49-0 victory.
“It’s a very flattering thing,” Schrader, who finished with 178 rushing yards on 28 carries, said of his record-tying performance. “But my main concern was just getting the win and moving on next week. I’m very happy that I was able to tie the record with Zach. Zach’s a great quarterback. He’s a good friend of mine.”
The win for Lake Zurich (8-2) was its 20th in the playoffs since 2006 and earned the Bears a second-round game against No. 3 Rockton Hononegah (9-1), a 39-16 winner over Willowbrook on Saturday. The game will be played in Rockton, likely Saturday.
The loss for Crystal Lake South (6-4) was its worst since a 54-0 defeat to Cary-Grove in Week 8 of the 2007 season.
“I can’t (explain it),” Schrader said of the improbable final score against a Gators squad that had won five in a row. “We showed up.”
“They were really tough,” said Crystal Lake South running back Zevin Clark, whose 67-yard run on the second snap of the second half gave the Gators their first first down. “They never gave up. They hit really hard. We were fighting to stay alive. They just outplayed us.”
Clark had a feeling all week it wasn’t going to be the Gators’ day.
“I just don’t think we came out ready, to tell you the truth,” Clark said. “In practice, we had a lot of things mentally breaking us apart.”
“I felt that way all season, here and there,” coach Chuck Ahsmann, whose Gators were 1-3 after a 20-19 loss to Huntley, said with a smile when told of Clark’s comment. “Things never go the way you want as a coach. If you have a perfect practice, it’s probably time to quit. Things went well at times, and things didn’t. Part of that was maybe nervousness going into a playoff game. But I think we were ready. I think we were prepared. I think (Lake Zurich) was better.”
Lake Zurich needed only seven plays to score after the opening kickoff, taking the lead on Schrader’s 1-yard run. A 56-yard pass play over the middle from former-lineman-turned-quarterback Noah Allgood to Grant Soucy highlighted the 80-yard drive.
After Crystal Lake South went three-and-out on its first series, Lake Zurich manufactured an 11-play, 73-yard drive that Schrader finished by scoring from 9 yards out.
The visitors’ second series ended quickly with Soucy intercepting Gators QB Austin Rogers. Crystal Lake South got the ball back deep in its own territory on Corbin Pennino’s interception, but the Gators were forced to punt, and Bears junior Colton Moskal blocked it. The ball rolled out of the end zone before either team could grab it.
The safety padded the Lake Zurich lead to 16-0 early in the second quarter.
“Our coaches put me in a great position to make a play,” said Moskal, the Bears’ two-year starting linebacker. “The pieces just fell into place.”
Lake Zurich rushed for 418 yards, averaging 7 per carry. Jake Stauner added 101 yards on the ground on just 10 carries. Stauner’s 13-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter started a running click. Sophomore call-up Zane Lodico bulled in from 1 yard out to finish the scoring.
Schrader’s fifth score came on a 51-yard burst with 6:34 to go in the third.
The Bears dominated upfront with Jerry Bauer, Aaron Hussey, Matt Schirmann, Matt Michael, Jack Sweeney and Derrick Morgan.
“Coming out this week, we really wanted to focus on playing low,” said Bauer, a senior tackle and two-year starter on the O-line. “A lot of teams we’re going to face in the playoffs are bigger and stronger than us, so if we play up high with them, they can throw us around. Today, offensively, I think the line and the running backs played well playing low and staying low throughout the whole game.”
Schrader’s TD runs of 3 and 12 yards had the Bears up 30-0 at halftime. He been playing the last couple of weeks with an achy hip that he banged up in the Bears’ Week-7, 3-0 loss to Libertyville.
“It’d been bothering me for the last couple of games. I was just trying to play through it,” Schrader said. “This is the best it’s felt. It’s 100 percent now.”
Lake Zurich, which limited Crystal Lake South to 8 yards of total offense in the first half, forced and recovered a pair of fumbles in the second half. Bears senior linebacker Nickolas Diehl put the final exclamation point on the win when he pounced on a fumble on the game’s final play.
Crystal Lake South came in averaging 33 points in its last five games.
“Great team,” Moskal said after he and his defensive teammates posted their sixth shutout. “Our coaches had the right plays called, and we had all 11 guys playing as one unit today.”
“They really pounded us,” Ahsmann said. “Give them all the credit. They are very experienced in playoff games and they have a tough conference (North Suburban). So we knew it would be a tough game. We thought we’d be able to keep it close, and we didn’t.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.