Lake Zurich edges Stevenson with 52-yard field goal at the buzzer
The Stevenson-Lake Zurich rivalry usually produces memorable moments, but not many high school football games end like this.
Lake Zurich senior kicker Danny Vuckovic sent a 52-yard field goal over the crossbar at the buzzer, giving the Bears an incredible 13-10 victory and sending the home sideline into a frenzied celebration.
"Before the game, the coaches said special teams was going to win the game for us," Vuckovic said. "On the sideline they're saying, 'It's on you, it's on you.' I was getting myself prepared, getting calm and stuff. I can't explain it, that's really it. It's surreal."
Vuckovic hit a 48-yarder last season. At the end of the first half, he had a 50-yard attempt blocked and Lake Zurich went into the locker room trailing 10-0.
"I grew up playing soccer," Vuckovic said. "I started my freshman year playing football. I was an O-lineman freshman year, which is funny. I went from O-line to kicker. Now it's a dream - 52-yarder, game-winner against our rivals, it's crazy."
Defense dominated on both sides. There was one play in the entire game that went for longer than 20 yards and it was a 61-yard touchdown bomb from QB Matt Projansky to senior Ben Snider that put Stevenson up 7-0 in the first quarter. Freshman kicker Caden An added a 38-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
Lake Zurich (2-1, 1-0) usually tries to get the ball to its big-play receiver, North Dakota commit Tyler Erkman, but the Patriots defense was able to keep him away from the ball for the most part.
So the Bears switched up the game plan and went to an up-tempo, run intensive attack in the second half. Lake Zurich finally got on the board with a 43-yard field goal late in the third quarter. After a three-and-out set up good field position, the Bears covered 36 yards in nine running plays to score the tying touchdown.
"In the first half, we had a lot of self-inflicted errors," Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. "At halftime, we're walking in and looking at the play call sheet. We're going, 'We've just got to do this better than we did in the first half and we'll win.' That was our message to the guys."
Junior Chris Pirrone scored the touchdown from 4 yards out with 6:47 left. LZ's offensive line of Richard Marmol, Trevor Schuetz, Bryce Sanders, Collin Byrne and Jim Strojny deserved most of the credit for creating room to run.
The Patriots (1-2, 0-1) picked up one first down, then decided to punt on fourth-and-one at their own 41-yard line. Ashton Gondeck's 16-yard run on a QB draw was the key play to set up the winning field goal.
"We didn't make enough plays tonight," Stevenson coach Brent Becker said. "We knew they had a great kicker and they got themselves in field position to take a shot at the end. The kid made a great kick. I give our defense a lot of credit. They played their butts off tonight."
Lake Zurich increased its win streak to six in a row over their Route 22 rivals. The game didn't seem particularly chippy, but the referee called players together before the first two drives of the second half for a talk.
"He just said, 'No chippy talk,'" senior Cal Grabowski said. "He said it was a great night to play football, which it was. Great night, ended on a great note."