Lake Zurich uses strong ground game, defense to open season with 28-7 win over Fremd

Fresh off a Class 7A semifinal berth but missing 32 graduated seniors, Lake Zurich looked to establish itself against Fremd, an opponent it historically has done well against. It became clear early that ball control and the ground game would determine the outcome. The Bears were the better team at both and began the season with a 28-7 victory.

Both sides' special teams shined at the end of the first quarter. A John O'Brien punt near the Vikings' end zone was blocked after a high snap and then recovered for 6 points by Chris Chang. Not to be outdone, Marquan Brewster ran the ensuing kickoff back 99 yards for the Vikings' first touchdown as time expired. But it was Lucas Lappin's 40-yard touchdown pass to Owen Peshek on the opening possession that made the difference in a 14-7 Bears halftime lead.

Peshek scored his second touchdown on a 3-yard run after the Vikings turned the ball over on downs on the first possession of the second half, giving the Bears a short field. The Bears' defense continued to hold strong after that, and they turned to Chris Pirrone to bring them home. They continually fed Pirrone the ball in the fourth quarter, and he ultimately scored the game's final touchdown, capping a night of rushing for 168 yards on 28 carries.

"I was just fighting for my boys right beside me, OK?" said Pirrone. "I mean, I'm always gonna fight for them. ... I'm always fighting for my boys right beside me. I love 'em all, and that's who I'm fighting for."

Led by O'Brien at quarterback, the Vikings got their best shot on offense late in the second quarter as they drove all the way to the Bears' 3-yard line with an opportunity to tie the game. But the ball was jarred loose at the goal line, and Conner Sole recovered the fumble. The Vikings never got that close to scoring again the rest of the night.

"We made a great play at the goal line to strip 'em of the ball and get out of that half and not give up any points," said Bears coach Ron Planz. "And then, we knew in the second half that we would take the ball and we'd have to run it down the field, and our guys stepped up to the challenge."

Brennan Saxe received 6 of O'Brien's completed passes for 43 yards.

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