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Flanked and escorted by a protector, No. 20 in the white football jersey legged toward Lakes' north end zone.
Homecoming queen Michelle Verga moved nearly as briskly as the guy wearing Lakes' blue No. 20 jersey.
Homecoming king Direll Clark was too busy to partake in halftime festivities Friday night in Lake Villa. Instead, the senior running back was busy talking second-half strategy with his team -- and resting, no doubt.
Behind 140 rushing yards from Clark and 274 passing yards from quarterback T.J. Edwards, the Eagles dropped 41 points on visiting Wauconda -- in the first half.
When it was over, Lakes had itself a 69-20 victory that moved the Eagles to 5-1 and 3-0 in the North Suburban Prairie Division and gave them, if they needed it, plenty of confidence going into next Friday's showdown with Grant.
"(The Wauconda win) is just another football game to us," said Eagles offensive tackle Dillon Falotico, who along with JJ Lochan, Ryan Mullen, Troy Kincaid, Ty Summers and tight end Jon Gomulka gave the offense plenty of time to execute. "We play every game like it's our first game. We play as hard as we can. Every team in our conference is a tough team. There's never an easy game."
Wauconda (3-3, 1-3), which entered the game missing bruising running back David Starkey as well as defensive standouts Nate Magiera and Erik Fuller, lost wide receiver Austin Piekarski, middle linebacker Keith Blomberg and outside linebacker Joey Pausa to injuries during the game.
"Down eight starters," said Wauconda coach Dave Mills, who's hoping to have Starkey (knee) back next Saturday at Round Lake.
"(Lakes) is a big, strong, physical team. They're the best team we've seen all year. They got all the makings to go a long way (in the state playoffs). I don't know who's better."
Clark finished with 196 yards on the ground on 23 carries. He scored on runs of 6, 6, 1 and 10 yards. As he typically does, the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder was running over tacklers almost every time he carried the ball.
"He's a great player. There's no doubt about that," Mills said. "He's hard to tackle. If you tackle him high, he's going to punish you. If you're going to tackle him, you have to tackle him down around the knees and ankles. That's the only way to stop him."
Edwards, Lakes' first-year starter at QB, finished 11-of-15 passing for 342 yards. He fired touchdown passes of 32 yards to Gomulka, 35 yards to wide receiver Andrew Spencer and 33 yards to wide receiver Justin Bergeron. A scrambling Edwards scored from 6 yards out in the closing seconds of the third quarter to extend Lakes' lead to 55-20.
"He reads the D-ends well," Clark said of Edwards, who showed both an accurate and strong arm. "He knows when to pull it (and run) and when to throw it on target. He can do it all."
When Edwards hit Gomulka in the end zone with 4:19 left in the opening quarter, one play after linebacker Mike Brey intercepted Wauconda quarterback Austin Swenson at midfield, Lakes led 21-0.
But behind Swenson (17 of 33, 220 yards, 2 TDs), Wauconda fought back.
Swenson's 20-yard scoring pass to Piekarski with 2:03 left before halftime got the Bulldogs within 34-14. But the Eagles needed just 2 plays to answer. Edwards and Clark hooked up on a 40-yard pass play, and then Edwards threw a bullet in the end zone to Bergeron from 33 yards out.
"We knew that (Wauconda) had an explosive offense and that they could score a lot of points quickly," Lakes coach Luke Mertens said. "They did it against Grant, which is a very good team. We warned our players (at halftime). We said, 'Guys, this game is far from over. This is a new game in the second half. We're playing a dangerous opponent.' "
But Lakes shut out Wauconda after halftime. On Lakes' first possession, Spencer had a catch-and-run covering 68 yards, and Clark capped the two-play drive with his fourth TD to make it 48-20.
Backup running back Cameron Johnson busted off touchdown runs of 16 and 19 yards in the fourth.
"There's this misperception that all we have is Direll," Mertens said. "The reality is that we're balanced offensively, and you have to be."