Wauconda's looking good in defense of NLCC title

Wauconda overcame a major hurdle last week in its ongoing defense of the Northern Lake County Conference title with a 16-14 road win over perennial NLCC power Antioch.

The win impressed the heck out of coach Chris Prostka.

"Our team has not allowed adversity to change our effort or attitude," he said. "Our team stuck together in a tough game against a good Antioch team."

Jacob Norris had a tad of a say in the Bulldogs' success. He had 4 catches for 116 yards against the Sequoits.

"Jacob had a monster game for us," Prostka said.

Connor Vanselow is up to 12 touchdowns this season through 6 games, while Wauconda's defense has taken the ball away 13 times or an average of 2.2 per game.

Wauconda faces Lakes Friday and holds a game lead over Antioch and Grayslake North in the NLCC standings.

Grant update:

Grant piled up 34 points last week against Grayslake Central, the second week in a row it has broken the 30-point scoring barrier.

"We scored 34 points last week, which is a big step for us," Grant coach Tim Norwood said.

Norwood noted the Bulldogs continue to work on multiple facets of their game as they head into Friday's game at Antioch. "We need to play better team defense and play with better technique," he said.

Senior defensive back Caleb Adams was a special teams stalwart last week, returning a kickoff for a touchdown against Central.

Lakes update:

The Eagles sit at 3-3 and must win two of their final three games to become playoff eligible. Lakes made the playoffs last year at 5-4.

Lakes coach Jason Ellerman said the run game is a talking point coming out of last week's loss to Grayslake North. "We were not able to run the ball effectively on offense and did a poor job stopping the run defensively," he said. "Wauconda (Week 7 opponent) is going to be a great test for us to see if we can improve in those areas."

Cade Primack has been a big plus on special teams for Lakes, Ellerman noted. "Cade has stepped up big time for us in the kicking area," he said. "He has multiple touchbacks and his PATs are getting better every week."

Eric Goode's defensive play of late has gotten noticed as well. "Eric Goode is starting to settle in for us at safety," Ellerman noted.

Grayslake Central update:

The Rams overcame a punch to the teeth last week in the form of a 14-point deficit to Grant.

"Our team is resilient and tough," Rams coach Mike Maloney noted. "I gathered the team, challenged them to respond and they did in showstopping fashion. Our best players are stepping up to answer the bell at the appropriate time in the season."

Specifically, Maloney said Kaiden Miller, Cole Gillette and Garrett Guenther "provide a potent trio on offense complemented by Alex Carter's explosive potential and Matty Jens' ground-and-pound throwback style of running," he said.

Jens added 14 tackles on defense, "setting the pace," Maloney said. "He and Connor Anguilm continue to be terrific leaders."

Maloney said special teams took a big step forward against Grant. "Our biggest area of improvement was special teams," he said. "Danny Whittington blocking a punt allowed Jake DeLeon to fall on it for a touchdown."

Speaking of Miller, he's run for 648 yards and 9 scores and averages more than 11 yards per rush. He's also snared 11 catches for 362 yards and has 5 receiving touchdowns - putting him over the 1,000 total-yard barrier on offense already this season with three regular-season games to play.

Grayslake North update:

Knights coach Brian Johnson said a goal last week was to increase the production in the running game.

"We made a concerted effort to try to run the ball last week, and being somewhat successful at it is going to be beneficial coming down toward the end of the season," he said.

Michael Jefferson ran the ball 20 times for 191 yards and had 2 touchdowns in the Week 6 triumph over Lakes.

North, at 5-1, can clinch an automatic playoff berth with a win Friday against Round Lake.

In the odd trivia department, according to IHSA records, North's 5-1 mark evens the school's all-time win-loss record at 86-86.

Round Lake update:

Speaking of the Panthers, coach Scott Blecha was thrilled with what his team did in last week's 28-20 win over North Chicago.

Round Lake dressed 18 players for game.

"This is a resilient group," Blecha said. "We dressed 18 total players and came out with a 'W'." We asked multiple players to do something that they have never done before and they all stepped up. It was a true team win with contributions from everyone that dressed. The team is improving and learning the game each week."

Blecha noted the North Chicago game was the first time this season where the Panthers led a game from wire-to-wire.

"It was great to see our players continue to battle and not give up even when North Chicago tied the game twice (14-14 and 20-20)," he said.

Cesar Gutierrez led the Round Lake defense in tackles for a third game this season. He finished with 9 total tackles/assists.

Vernon Hills update:

The Cougars, coach Bill Bellecomo explained, have tackled roadblocks left and right as they have popped up this season.

"We have had to battle a lot of adversity," he said. "Last week we had four of our five starting linemen out for the Maine West game. It seems like every week, we are down two or three starters, which has allowed us to play a lot of kids. We have a lot of kids getting varsity experience."

Vernon Hills (0-6) heads to Skokie to play Niles North in Week 7.

Libertyville update:

Lessons learned coming out of last week's 21-8 loss to North Suburban leader Lake Forest?

"Details matter," said Wildcats coach Mike Jones, whose squad is 3-3. "Little mistakes can add up to bigger problems. Football is a team game, and I would say the ultimate team game, so every player has to execute their assignment in order for a play to be successful."

Jones had high praise for senior defensive lineman Ethan Kendall. "Ethan has shown he has a great motor and has been chasing plays down all over the field," he said.

Lake Zurich update:

The Bears had a few statistics jump off the page in last week's win against Libertyville that increased their mark to 4-0 in North Suburban play, one game ahead of second-place Warren.

Lake Zurich held Libertyville to 2-for-11 on third downs and also sits at a plus-11 turnover ration.

"We have turned the ball over 3 times while getting 14 turnovers from opponents," Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. "We continue to have guys step up when they are needed. We have been battling the injury and sickness bug the last three weeks, but our team stuck together and persevered."

Planz likes the progress quarterback Ashton Gondeck has made.

"Ashton has become much more efficient throwing the ball," he said.

Gondeck is 21-for-31 passing for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns and also has rushed for 148 yards and 2 scores.

The Bears can clinch an automatic playoff spot with a win against Lake Forest Friday.

Mundelein update:

Mustangs coach Vince DeFrancesco pointed out the team's last three opponents are three of the Top 8-largest enrollments in Illinois in Warren (nearly 3,900), Stevenson (approaching 4,300) and Waukegan (approaching 4,600). The Mustangs' final three opponents are all schools with less than 2,000 pupils.

Mundelein sits at 3-3, needing a pair of wins in its final three games to become playoff eligible.

"We are currently 3-3 and feel good about the position we are in," DeFrancesco said. "Our goal of being a 7A playoff team is still attainable. We must continue to improve and execute at a high level."

DeFrancesco likes the way Tony Ortega has been playing of late. "Tony has really started to turn on the jets these past few weeks," he said. "He has great hands and speed, and is an impact player on our offense."

Warren update:

The Blue Devils can clinch a playoff berth with a win against Waukegan at home Friday. Warren downed Mundelein 48-8 after a Week 5 loss to Lake Zurich.

"Our kids are capable of bouncing back," Warren coach Bryan McNulty said. "We had a tough week of practice (after the Lake Zurich game), but I couldn't be any more proud of the kids and the way they responded."

McNulty said the Blue Devils' run defense was of particular note in the Mundelein win.

"Our kids came out and really stopped the run well," he said. "Mundelein has the ability to really hammer you in the run game and I thought our kids did a great job of handling that."

Cassius Callahan has been a difference-maker on special teams this season for the Blue Devils.

"Without a doubt, Cassius Callahan has made a difference," McNulty said. "He is a force in multiple areas of our return game. He is dependable and dynamic."

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