After thinking about it for a moment or two, Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt decided it was neither an ugly win nor an ugly performance by his Bears team in their Class 7A second-round playoff contest Saturday at No. 3 seed Rockton Hononegah.
The visiting sixth-seeded Bears survived a stretch in the second half in which they lost 2 fumbles and had a punt snapped over the punter's head. Only a couple of first downs, too, for Lake Zurich in that stretch.
But hey, style points don't count in the playoffs, right?
All the second-half mishaps were smoothed over by an unrelenting Bears defense as Lake Zurich held off the Indians 17-6 to advance into the state quarterfinals for the sixth time in the last seven years.
Awaiting the Bears on Saturday afternoon is No. 2 seed Rockford Boylan. The two-time defending state champions eliminated Lake Zurich in the semifinals a year ago 16-10. Boylan advanced with a heart-stopping 22-21 win over No.7 seed Fenwick.
"You know something?" Proffitt said, smiling. "I take it back that this was an ugly win. This was a beautiful win and a great high school football game. We get to keep playing, so any win is a very good win."
In the early stages, the game was anything but ugly for Lake Zurich (9-2). The Bears' running game was churning up big gains, led by another terrific performance by senior Connor Schrader. He rushed for 118 yards on 24 carries and scored on a 7-yard run midway through the second quarter to give Lake Zurich a 10-0 lead at halftime.
But for as smoothly as the offense was functioning in the first half, the Bears had trouble moving the ball on the stout defense of Hononegah (9-2) later on.
"We just came out more determined in the second half and didn't want this to be our last game," said Hononegah junior Alex Martin. "They were pushing us around in the first half and we wanted to get back to what we do."
Robert Rossdeutcher and the Bears defense, though, never missed a beat. Despite three successive turnovers by the LZ offense, Hononegha produced only 6 points.
A 4-yard touchdown run by Marrick Protz brought Hononegah within 10-6 with 2:45 left in the third quarter, but that was all the Lake Zurich defense yielded.
"We just knew we had to go out and do our jobs and stop (Hononegah)," said Rossdeutcher.
Rossdeutcher played a big role in the outcome of the game late in the fourth quarter. A 49-yard punt by Jake Stauner backed Hononegah up to its own 8. On the next play, Rossdeutcher jumped the route of an Indians receiver and intercepted Hononegah quarterback Joey Welsh. Two plays later, Sean Lynch sealed the win for the Bears with a 5-yard scoring run.
"Our defense just played their butts off today," Proffitt said. "Those guys are fighters and they don't get fazed by any situation they are in."
The defense shut down the potent running game of Hononegah, limiting Alex Martin, the Indians' leading rusher, to 78 yards.