Lake Zurich uses defensive stand, 17-play drive to hold off Crystal Lake Central
How do you suck the life out of an upset bid? You hit it with your bread and butter.
That was No. 1 Lake Zurich's entire second half against a tough 16 seed in Crystal Lake Central.
The Bears defense picked up five tackles for loss while the ball-control offense drained the clock on a monstrous 17-play drive in the final 24 minutes to pace a 21-7 win over the Tigers in Class 6A.
The win moves Lake Zurich (9-1) into the second round against ninth-seeded Kaneland.
"Records are not always indicative of what kind of team you are, and we knew at 5-4 (Crytal Lake Central) was a tough draw for us, especially with the athletes they have and the size they have," LZ coach Ron Planz said. "It was going to be a tough matchup, and they played hard. Our kids matched it and we're lucky enough to come out of it with a win."
Planz was right. It was anything but easy with the Tigers pulling even at 7-7 going into halftime and receiving the second half kickoff. However, Lake Zurich wasn't exactly shaken and immediately forced a three-and-out to set up the offense with great field position at the LZ 47.
Bears quarterback Lucas Lappin came up with two huge plays to give his team the lead. He completed a 33-yard pass to Jackson Piggott on third-and-11 and followed it up with a 21-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7.
The Tigers (5-5) looked set to answer. Led by Griffin Buehler (15 carries, 62 yards) and George Dimopoulos (8-of-17 passing for 91 yards, 14 carries for 54 yards, TD), Crystal Lake Central moved all the way to the Lake Zurich 23 and had first and 10.
However, on three consecutive plays, Lake Zurich hit CLC in the backfield, including a sack from Nate Snep, killing the drive and giving the offense a chance to hammer home the win.
They did that in grueling fashion for the visitors. On a 17-play, 72-yard drive that took up more than nine minutes of clock time, Lake Zurich converted two third downs and two fourth downs. The last of those was an 18-yard touchdown run by Chris Pirrone to make it 21-7 with just 5:16 to play.
"They had all the momentum going into that drive," said Lappin, who was 6-for-1 passing for 111 yards while rushing for 91 yards and two touchdowns. "I told the guys before that drive 'it's now or never. We need to put them out right here,' and we did that with 17 plays and a powerful drive."
Lake Zurich's defense picked up a turnover on the following drive to end Crystal Lake Central's season at 5-5, but not without praise from head coach Dirk Stanger.
"Defense absolutely played their butts off again," he said. "They kept us in the game. There were some bounces that didn't go our way, some loss yardage plays at bad times, but I can't say enough about the fight of this team. All of the adversity they have faced the last two years for that matter, for them to keep playing the way they are, I couldn't be prouder."