Lake Larson dreamed of this day since he was a little kid.
In some ways, some still might look at him as that little kid,
The Crystal Lake South defensive back, who features a 5-foot-7, 175-pound frame that seems even shorter in person, might be one of the shorter kids on the field. But don't let that size fool you. He's the perfect example of what to do when your number gets called when a teammate goes down.
Larson, who filled in for an injured Brandon LaPak and looked for redemption in his senior season return after not playing his junior year, played more like Brian Urlacher on Friday and was instrumental in South's 16-6 Fox Valley Conference crossover win over crosstown rival Crystal Lake Central at Ken Bruhn Field in front of roughly 4,000 fans.
Larson anchored a secondary that held Central (1-1) quarterback Kyle Lavand to just 148 yards passing (15-for-36, 1 interception) and 21 incompletions, a far cry from the 301 yards the Tigers's QB notched in their comeback win over Huntley last week.
South's defense allowed 154 total yards, forced 5 punts and Central didn't get its second first down until there was 4 minutes left in the third quarter. Dennis Gardeck had the lone interception for South (1-1) and Larson dropped 2, one of which could have been a 90-yard pick-6.
"Three actually," Larson eagerly exclaimed, then retracted. "Actually, not even three. It could have been three. I should have had the one on the 10-yard line. That could have been a 90-yard touchdown, but it's all right, it's all right."
It was all right. Later on the drive, the Gators' rush, led by defensive end John Fitzpatrick, a former linebacker, forced Lavand to scramble and throw for a gain that wasn't enough on fourth down with the Gators up 16-0 late in the third. That was the story the entire night as the Gators' defense made key plays against the spread and the double wing.
"We're really happy with how he's come along," Gators coach Chuck Ahsmann said of Larson. "La Pak got hurt out there, (Larson's) practiced all week, he rotates in, there's an example of a guy who's practiced real hard and was ready to play when he was called upon and did an outstanding job.
"We have some good secondary guys and we played a little more aggressive. That made a big difference."
South looked for a shot in the arm, especially after the 31-0 drilling against Marian Central last week.
"We were really going to play cover-4 because we mostly played cover-2 against (Marian Central quarterback) Chris Streveler and that didn't work out too well so we were going to play off a little bit and it worked out a little better," Larson said.
Central barely managed 6 rushing yards and Lavand couldn't put together any late game heroics this week.
"They we're in cover-2. I think they had our routes figured out. They had it figured out," Lavand said.
South scored on Zevin Clark's 6-yard run for an early 6-0 lead. Casey Oliver added a 24-yard field in the second and a 21-yard pass play that Austin Rogers and wideout Eric Schiller hooked up for in the third made it 16-0. A go-route, Rogers put on a beautiful fake and Schiller down the left sideline, had room when the Central corner bit on the fake.
Eric Landis led the Gators with 75 yards rushing on 21 carries. Clark added 33 yards on 9 carries.