Before the start of the season, Schaumburg's Justice Macneal-Young was hoping to get the opportunity to fill in at running back.
After all, he was backing up two-year starter Sadarriss Patterson. But Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling had other ideas.
"Young looked good in the backfield," Stilling said. "And we needed Sadarriss on defense."
Stilling's move looked like sheer genius Thursday.
Macneal-Young rushed for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns as Schaumburg bounced Hersey, 42-21, in a battle of unbeaten Mid-Suburban League football teams.
"I worked hard in camp," said Macneal-Young, who came into the game with 156 rushing yards for the season. "And I got to be where I needed to be. The coaches gave me the job in week one and the offensive line led me to where I am today. The offensive line played great again. They have been the backbone of this team."
With the bullish 5-foot-10, 190 pound Macneal-Young running inside, it cleared the outside lanes for quarterback Stacey Smith to pull off some dazzling runs.
Smith did just that on the Saxons' second play from scrimmage, with a 56-yard scamper.
"We love to run the football here," said Smith, who finished with 154 yards on 19 carries. "We have been putting up about 400 yards a game. We just want to keep pounding it no matter what."
Smith, who now has gained 500 yards for the season, had a long run and a fourth down screen pass that he completed to Ryan Tuma, that led to the Saxons first score. Macneal-Young scored on an 11-yard burst to make it 7-0 with 5:20 left in the first quarter.
Hersey came right back on the first play after the ensuing kickoff. Tyndale Dahnweih took a bubble screen pass from Jack Warner and turned it into a 72-yard touchdown play to even the game at 7-7. Four plays later it was Smith, busting off a 37-yard run off the option to make it 13-6 after the kick failed.
Despite a missed field goal, Schaumburg looked almost unstoppable on offense in the first half. Smith scored again on 2-yard run late in the quarter to make it 20-7. Schaumburg piled up 281 rushing yards in the first half.
But Hersey's defense, led by Joe Caputo, Chase Bandolik, Cole Monckton and Joey Seafield began to slow down the Saxons in the second half, limiting them to 35 yards of offense until late in the fourth quarter.
Despite that, Schaumburg was able to increase its lead to 35-7 heading into the final period. Michael Jones took the opening kickoff for Schaumburg to start the second half, reversed his field and scored on a 67-yard return.
Smith, who scored on the conversion run, showed even more versatility when he ran a punt back 36 yards for a touchdown.
Hersey (2-1) found its offensive stride after that. The Huskies mounted a pair of scoring drives in the fourth quarter to make the game a bit interesting. Warner scored on a 5-yard run. He then connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Miklasz to make it 35-21 with 5:21 to play.
But Schaumburg recovered the onside kick and the Saxons put together their only successful drive of the second half, capped by Macneal-Young's 14-yard run with 1:10 to play.
"I thought we were unbelievably sloppy on the both sides of the ball in second half," Stilling said. "We talk about finishing and we didn't do a good job of that."
But one thing that has continued to please Stilling is the play of his offensive line. The group of Michael Bruno, Justin Sanchez, Matt Zolper, Aleksander Piotrowski and Matt Stopka has been superb in the Saxons' first three games with Schaumburg rushing for nearly 1,200 yards.
"We have been together as a group for a while now," said Zolper, who has been a four-year starter. "We have very good chemistry. And it makes it easier when we have great backs like Smith and Young. We love when Young runs the ball inside behind us."