Lake Forest starts fast, knocks Mundelein out of playoffs
The numbers didn't quite add up for Mundelein this season. Losing three key players to injuries early in the season hurt, then that fifth win proved elusive after a 4-0 start.
The Mustangs had a chance to reach the state playoffs for the first time since 2004, but they lost to Lake Forest 35-14 on Friday in the North Suburban Conference.
"We had a motto this year called 'Week 10,' Mundelein senior tackle Brandon Hanson, who will continue his football career at Illinois. "That was basically us wanting to make it to the playoffs. Every practice we repeated, 'Week 10, Week 10, Week 10.' We couldn't get to Week 10 this year, but I know these juniors and sophomores are going to uphold our dreams. The program's moving in a good direction."
Lake Forest (5-4) also need a win to get in. The Scouts will almost certainly return to the postseason after an 11-year playoff streak was interrupted last fall.
"Obviously, it was real disappointing last year," LF senior linebacker Tommy Aberle said. "This year our whole focus was just to get back. We had to do whatever it takes to get back and I think we did a good job of that. Tonight was a statement win for us."
This was one of those games where the coin toss made a difference. Lake Forest got the ball first and took the lead, then Mundelein couldn't muster the defensive stop it needed to get an equalizer.
Lake Forest used a good mix on offense to put together two long scoring drives in the first half, going 6-for-6 on third down in the process. Scouts QB Daniel Van Camp tossed TD passes to James Elliott and Charlie Markee to make it 14-0.
In between, Mundelein's offense needed to keep pace, but after getting two first downs on its opening possession a fumbled pitch led to a 5-yard loss and ruined the drive.
The Mustangs finally got on the board with 2:22 left before halftime. After using some signature power runs to get down the field, the scoring play was a nice throwback screen from QB Daniel McNelly to Adam Bogenski for a 16-yard TD.
A defensive stop before halftime would have been huge for Mundelein, but Van Camp directed the Scouts downfield and they scored on a 27-yard reverse to junior Martin Hippel to make it 21-7 with 50 seconds left before intermission.
Mustangs receiver Wyatt Soudan was shut out in the first half. But on the opening drive of the third quarter, he caught an 11-yard pass to convert a third down, then got loose deep for a 52-yard gain, setting up Maddux Hermestroff's 3-yard TD run to bring the visitors within 21-14.
Lake Forest answered just three plays later with Van Camp hitting Nathan Williams in stride for a 50-yard TD. Mundelein's next three drives were halted by a fumbled handoff, holding penalty and interception. LF put the game out of reach with a 36-yard TD pass to Markee about a minute into the fourth quarter.
"I just love what we did as a program," McNelly said. "We've been playing together since we were 6, 7 years old. So it stinks not to do what we wanted to do, but we loved every second of it."
McNelly ran for 67 yards and threw for 165. For Lake Forest, Hippel rushed for 100 yards on 14 carries, Van Camp threw for 216 yards, while Markee had 4 catches for 89 yards.
"Going into the season, a lot of people thought he (McNeely) be our third-string quarterback," Mundelein coach Vince DeFrancesco said. "Leader, just a great young man, his teammates gravitate to him. He played pretty darn well tonight, I thought."
The Mustangs lost senior RB/S Lucas Dickey to a torn ACL in July, then OL Vito Romano in August and LB Julian Rivas in Week 2.
"Lucas Dickey was our captain, returning all-conference player," DeFrancesco said. "He's a difference-making player."
While the senior class was able to take a step forward, there's hope for the future with Mundelein's 7-2 JV team.
"I can't say anything but I love this team," Hanson said. "Great group of guys. Obviously not the outcome we wanted, but I wouldn't want to end the season like this with any other group of kids. I can't be mad at anyone. End of the season for us, but still a family."