At a time when many high school football coaches are abandoning run-oriented offenses left and right, Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp is more committed than ever to his triple option.
"We made the switch (to triple option) about 10 years ago and it works well for us," Schremp said. "There used to be a lot of teams (running option). Now, we see the spread (offense) almost every week.
"Now, we're the ones who are different. I like being different."
Schremp also likes winning. And on Friday night, the triple option didn't let him down. It yielded the same result it has many times before for Prairie Ridge over the last decade.
The Wolves, just two years removed from a state championship, ran over, around and through a scrappy and persistent Lakes team en route to a 21-14 first-round upset victory in the Class 6A state playoffs in Lake Villa.
In fact, all Prairie Ridge did was run.
The No. 13 Wolves, now 6-4 on the season and in line to play Marmion Academy in the second round next week, ran 59 offensive plays against the fourth-seeded Eagles (8-2), and all 59 of them were rushing plays. Not one was a pass.
"We're just dedicated to (the triple option). We've been doing it for years and it got us to three semifinals and a state championship so why not keep running it?" said Prairie Ridge running back Brent Anderson, who rolled up 50 yards on 10 carries, which was just shy of the team-high 57 yards amassed by teammate Steven Ladd. "The defense doesn't know where the ball is and we play as fast as possible. We're a really fast team, and catch a lot of teams off guard with how fast we run it. I think we caught (Lakes) off guard."
Prairie Ridge scored on the opening series of the game by capping a 13-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brett Covalt, who left the game shortly thereafter with a concussion and was replaced for good by sophomore Luke Annen.
The Eagles answered about a minute later when Mike Brey broke free for a 66-yard touchdown run. But then Prairie Ridge scored again on a 4-yard run by Ladd to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.
The Wolves went up 21-7 with 4:27 left in the third quarter on a 4-yard run by Zack Greenberg and were able to eat clock for much of the rest of the game.
"They run their offense so smooth and fast," said Lakes cornerback Nick Battaglia, who rolled up a team-high 10 tackles. "Their hand-offs and fakes happen really quick and I give them a lot of props for that. They run it really well and it was a tough battle for us through the whole game."
But Lakes never surrendered.
The Eagles rushed the ball a lot, too, but they got back into the game on a couple of big passing plays.
They cut their deficit to just 7 points (21-14) on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Ethan Sage to Jake Balliu with 3:54 left. Then after a stop by the defense, Sage (9-for-18, 148 yards) took to the air again.
His 70-yard bomb to Devyn Cedzidlo gave Lakes a first-and-goal at the Prairie Ridge 10-yard line with about a minute remaining.
The Eagles were stopped on their next three attempts and had one more shot at the end zone with 23 seconds left. But Sage's fourth-down pass was knocked down, and that iced victory for Prairie Ridge.
"Our team played our hearts out," said Balliu, who rushed for 45 yards and also recovered a fumble on third down of the last series to keep hope alive for the Eagles. "We never gave up. We stuck with each other. We're a brotherhood. There was not one doubt in my mind that we were going to win that game.
"We were right there. We just came up short this year. It's a bad feeling in our guts and in our hearts that we didn't make it."