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Some habits never die.
And isn't the Lake Zurich football team glad to know that can go for the good habits, too?
With a 24-0 shutout over Fremd, the Bears' defense got the season started last week with the same kind of stinginess it has become known for over the years. Last season, Lake Zurich pitched a whopping 6 shutouts and allowed just 6.3 points per game.
"We pride ourselves in being able to get to the football quickly, all 11 guys," Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt said. "Our primary focus as a defense is to win the game."
Led by Syracuse-bound linebacker Colton Moskal, the Bears were able to hold Fremd to just 128 total yards of offense while forcing Fremd into costly mistakes and penalties.
Anthony Baca and Trevor Staley each had an interception for Lake Zurich.
"That feeds into the mental aspect of how you play," Proffitt said. "When the mistakes start to happen for the other team, they got down and we start to get up. We had a number of people play really well."
Most offenses strive to be as balanced as possible between the run and pass.
Wauconda couldn't have been more on point last week in a win over Woodstock North.
"Our game stats said we finished with 147 rushing yards and 148 passing yards," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "But when we went back and watched the film, we found 1 extra rushing yard so we had 148 rushing yards and 148 passing yards.
"You can't have a better mix. To watch the kids execute that was really fantastic."
Sophomore quarterback Kevin Malisheski and Josh Anderson hooked up for a game-winning touchdown pass while tailback Alex Payne got the season off to a great start with 105 rushing yards on 20 carries.
It wasn't such a leap of faith for Grayslake North coach Steve Wood to start a sophomore at quarterback last week against Lakes.
The last time he started a sophomore, it worked out pretty well.
The performance of sophomore Merrick Gentile fell in line with another quarterback who burst onto the scene at Grayslake North as a sophomore. AJ Fish graduated last spring after rolling up more than 7,000 total yards over his 3-year career.
Last week, Gentile scored 4 touchdowns, two on rushes, two on passes.
"We're going to play the best guys at each position, no matter what year they are," Wood said. "Two or three years ago when we changed our offense, we knew we had (Fish and Gentile) coming through the pipeline and that this offense would suit them best.
"Both Merrick and AJ have great lateral movement, they're both fast and they're both very accurate with their passes."
One way in which Gentile and Fish differ is their demeanors.
Fish was known for his calm presence and stoic expressions. Gentile is a bit more fiery.
"AJ really didn't show a lot of emotion and Merrick is the complete opposite," Wood said. "He gets upset if you take him out. If his receivers drop a ball, he lets them know, although, usually in a positive way, not in a Jay Cutler kind of way. Merrick is just very intense and one of the toughest kids I've ever coached. In a street fight, he's the first kid I'd pick."
Suddenly, Titus Booker went from being fast to really, really fast.
The Grayslake North tailback was "booking it" by the end of track season last spring.
"He kind of came out of nowhere," Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said. "He won our conference and qualified for state in the 100 after being the third or fourth seed (in the Fox Valley Conference meet). We always knew that he was fast, but that was kind of unexpected."
Considering his newfound speed, which is now complemented by the 30 pounds of muscle he put on during the summer, Booker's outburst during Week 1 against Lakes wasn't entirely unexpected.
Booker rolled up 268 yards against Lakes, which is a school record at Grayslake North. The mark beats the 247 rushing yards recorded by AJ Fish in a game during the 2011 season.
"I bet no one has ever gotten 268 yards on the Lakes defense," Wood said. "That was a great job against a very good team. Titus worked so hard during the offseason and spent a lot of time in the gym. When you watch film on him from last year, he doesn't even look like the same kid now."
There might be extra water and Gatorade on the Libertyville sideline this week.
The Wildcats will want to make hydration a priority to ward off any chance of cramping. Last week in a loss to Palatine, star running back Conor Simpson missed most of the fourth quarter due to severe cramps.
"That changed our dynamic offensively because he was running really hard until he cramped up," Libertyville coach Mike Jones said of Simpson. "We were running the ball pretty well as a team."
Jones says that Simpson's approach to rushing the ball has changed for the better since last season.
"We were really happy with how he was running between the tackles last week," Jones said. "Sometimes, in his younger years, Conor would look for the path of least resistance and the blocking wasn't always there (on the outside). He was doing a really good job of letting the play develop."
Behind the scenes:
A general rule of thumb is that behind every good rusher are some good linemen opening big holes.
At Mundelein, there's also a tight end paving the way for big yardage.
Last week in the Mustangs' win over Wheeling, running back Emanuel Jones rolled up 255 yards on 16 carries. Many of those carries were sent in the direction of tight end David Adams.
"David Adams absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage," Mundelein coach George Kaider said. "He's the best blocking tight end I've ever coached and he took (Wheeling's) best lineman and just dominated him. That was a big part of our running game."
Clearly, Mundelein outside linebacker Albert Mota is paying attention at practice.
The senior had 2 quarterback sacks and 2 game-changing tackles in a win over Wheeling last week.
"Albert did a great job and overall, I thought our tackling was phenomenal," Mundelein coach George Kaider said. "We were fast to the ball.
"I really believe in our system of teaching tackling. We do drills that put our guys in the same situations they'll be in during games."
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