Prairie Ridge's defense wanted to make a big statement.
It was made loud and clear on the opening play of the Wolves' Class 6A quarterfinal game against Nazareth Academy Saturday in Crystal Lake.
Wolves' cornerback John Borst scooped up Joshua Moore's fumble and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown. The play set the tone for the rest of the day as Nazareth (10-2) never got its offense going and the Wolves advance to next week's IHSA semifinals against Batavia with a 35-7 victory. The semifinal appearance marks the second straight the Wolves (11-1) have reached the Final Four. Batavia advanced with a 42-0 win over Lakes on Saturday.
"We feel our offense usually comes out for us," said Borst, who scored his first varsity touchdown on the play. "We were excited to get the ball. I was blocked at first, but then got loose and I was able to scoop and score."
The Wolves continued the defensive stand limiting Nazareth, which had outscored its first two postseason opponents 59-6, to only 10 yards on its first 3 offensive possessions.
Prairie Ridge held the Roadrunners to 6 yards on the ground in the second half and just 46 total rushing yards. The Wolves also forced 4 fumbles, recovering 3.
The biggest surge came after the Wolves stuffed Roadrunners' starting quarterback Samuel Poulos on a fourth-and-2 on the Prairie Ridge 12-yard line with 1:41 left in the first half.
Poilos was injured on the play, tried to return twice, but limped off the field both times.
"Our defense was unbelievable," PR coach Chris Schremp said. "On our d-line, we have a bunch of runts. They allow our linebackers to make tackles. Our tackling was phenomenal. That's been our defense all year long. When we need them to make a play, they make a play."
The offense and special teams also dialed up their fair share of big plays when they needed to as well.
Nazareth had forced PR to punt with just under 7 minutes left in the game. The Roadrunners fumbled the punt and long snapper Jordan Getzelman rushed down and fell on top of the ball at the Nazareth 6-yard line.
Quarterback Nick Nissen found Getzelman on a 9-yard pass 3 plays later to put the Wolves up 28-7 with 4 minutes, 58 seconds left to play.
Nazareth had outscored PR 7-0 in the second half prior to Getzelman's touchdown. Nissen added a 24-yard touchdown run with 2:11 left to play to give the Wolves their final margin. Nissen also ran in a 6-yard score in the first quarter.
"We had a tough time coming back out (in the second half) against them," Nissen said. "We were doing it in the first half. When (Getzelman) got the ball back for us off the punt return that was a huge play for us."
Running back Connor Greenwald (25 rushes, 164 yards) put the Wolves up 21-0 with a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 3:15 left in the first half. Nazareth cut the lead to 21-7 after Kevin Curtin picked up a fumble and returned it 48 yards for a score on the Wolves' opening possession of the second half.