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Four touchdowns and 28 points in a single game probably doesn't qualify as prolific for most offenses.
But for Vernon Hills, it felt like the floodgates opened Saturday afternoon at Round Lake.
In a season in which the Cougars haven't seen the end zone much, a 35-21 North Suburban Conference Prairie Division victory over Round Lake was a welcome change of pace.
Vernon Hills, which got its first touchdown from the defense on a 19-yard fumble return by Pat Crowley, was averaging just 9 points a game over the first seven weeks of the season. That was the fewest in the North Suburban Conference.
Now at 12.3 points per game, the Cougars improve to 3-5 overall and 3-2 in the Prairie. Round Lake drops to 1-7 overall and 0-5.
"It was definitely great (to score a lot)," Vernon Hills senior fullback Mason Geick said. "I think it was also really important that we were able to spread out the points. We gave the ball to a lot of different guys. A lot of guys got some confidence today."
Geick was one of those guys. He scored a first-quarter touchdown that put Vernon Hills up 14-0 and finished with a game-high 72 rushing yards on 22 carries. He also helped Vernon Hills put together several long drives that chewed up plenty of clock.
"We haven't had that all year, being able to control the time of possession. This is kind of what we envisioned with our offense," said first-year Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellcomo, who put in a new offense this season. "We wanted to be able to run the ball consistently and then work in our passing game. We were able to do that today. Any time you're able to run the ball, it opens up the pass."
Vernon Hills quarterback Connor McNamara took advantage.
The sophomore was pressed into service when senior starter Jordan Freibrun broke his leg in the season opener. McNamara came up with one of his best efforts of the season in throwing 2 touchdowns against the Panthers. In the second quarter, he hit Robby Nardini for a 14-yard score and then connected with Kiwanne Durant from 4 yards out.
Overall, McNamara completed 11-of-17 passes for 121 yards. He also had no interceptions.
"It felt amazing to get our offense going," McNamara said. "It was nice to see it all click today and to put up a lot of points. We were running the ball really well today and that makes everything else easier.
"It's gotten frustrating sometimes this season, but you've just got to take every series and keep going at it."
Round Lake quarterback John Ridley did just that, and it kept his team in the game.
He directed the offense to a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter that cut the Panthers' deficit to 7 points each time. First he hit Jalen Young with a 6-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter. That made the score 14-7 in favor of Vernon Hills.
Later in the quarter, the Panthers recovered a Vernon Hills fumble and it took Ridley only three plays to get them back in the end zone. A 9-yard touchdown run by Joey Greenhill cut the Vernon Hills lead to 21-14 with 5:28 left.
But Vernon Hills rebounded and scored just before the half on McNamara's touchdown pass to Durant. That gave the Cougars a 28-14 lead at the break.
"We're making improvements and we made some big plays today. But it was some little mistakes that killed us," said Round Lake wide receiver Chris Washington, Ridley's favorite receiver with 6 catches for 112 yards. "We never had our heads down. We kept fighting the whole time."
Vernon Hills scored early in the third quarter on a 4-yard run by Kyle Thomas to go up 35-14, but Round Lake kept plugging away and scored again in the fourth quarter on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Ridley to Nathan Gonzalez (2 catches for 58 yards).
Ridley completed 16 of 34 passes for 226 yards and 2 interceptions.