Months before Colton Wagner provided a pair of highlights Saturday -- 2 touchdown catches covering 12 yards each -- in Saturday's Class 7A second-round state playoff game against Rockton Hononegah, the Lake Zurich linebacker watched highlights of LZ Bears football.
That was this summer when, uncertain whether to play football his senior year after blowing out his knee his junior year, he was handed a highlight video made by a couple of assistant coaches. The package included Wagner sacking a quarterback last season.
"That brought back some good memories," Wagner said. "That threw me over the top right there. It's just hard to say no after watching that."
Yes, Lake Zurich is glad Wagner said yes.
The part-time tight end was one of the heroes in top-seeded Lake Zurich's 20-0 win over No. 8 Hononegah.
"I'll take it," a smiling Wagner said of his 2 TD grabs. "I'm not complaining."
Lake Zurich fans aren't complaining either after the defense posted its fourth shutout of the season. The win earned Lake Zurich (10-1) a quarterfinal date against No. 5 Wheaton North, while ending the season of Hononegah (8-3) in the second round for the second year in a row.
Wagner tore his left ACL in Week 8 against Stevenson last year and had reconstructive surgery Nov. 1. With his sights set on playing college baseball, Wagner, whose knee injury cost him his junior season of baseball, didn't want to potentially injure his knee in football again and then, as a result, miss his senior year of baseball.
"It was really a tough decision whether I wanted to risk that opportunity of playing baseball in college to play football (senior year)," said the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Wagner, who's a catcher in baseball and was cleared to play that sport in May.
"He's a great baseball player," Bears linebacker Colton Moskal said. "I'm so happy he came out. He's a big part of this defense and a big part of this team."
Lake Zurich cornerback Trevor Staley delivered a big play in the opening quarter, recovering a fumble at the Indians 12. On the next snap, on a designed play-action pass, quarterback Noah Allgood found Wagner in the end zone with 2:50 left in the opening quarter.
"I just found a gap and Noah got me the ball," Wagner said.
"He's a great inside linebacker," Allgood, who also started at an inside linebacker spot, said of Wagner. "He's our goal-line tight end. Eighth grade, he played a little running back for me. So I know his athleticism. He's a great athlete."
The Bears have plenty of great athletes on the defensive side of the ball.
Lake Zurich limited Hononegah to 69 rushing and 68 passing yards. The closest the Indians got to the Lake Zurich end zone was the Bears 42, and that didn't happen until early in the fourth quarter. On its next possession, Hononegah got as far as the Lake Zurich 49. Those were the only two times the visitors had the ball in Bears territory.
"During the first half, we didn't have a very high intensity," said Lake Zurich defensive end Dominic McNeil, who had 2 sacks and a quarterback pressure in the second half. "Once we went inside, we talked about it, and we knew we had to come out in the second half and pop them in the mouth."
"They're extremely quick off the ball," Hononegah coach Tim Sughroue said. "We just haven't seen that type of speed. ... They play defense the way it's supposed to be played."
Trailing 6-0 at halftime, Hononegah began the second half by running 10 straight plays, but getting only as far as its own 38. Lake Zurich then put together a seven-play, 73-yard drive, which included Allgood's 37-yard completion to Sean Lynch. On second-and-10 from the 12, the Bears play-action passed again. They faked a run to the right, Allgood bootlegged left and hit Wagner, who won a race to the end zone.
"We have a run to the right and we had been running that a lot," Wagner said. "We decided to go with a boot, and it left me wide open."
"We run the ball effectively, so when we go play-action pass, it really just opens up our scheme," Allgood said. "Their safety, (No.) 28 (Adrian Marquez), he's a good ballplayer. He was flying up all day."
Allgood's 10-yard TD run with 2:28 left in the fourth, after Staley's interception gave the home team the ball at Hononegah's 15, put the finishing touches on Lake Zurich's 24th postseason win since 2006.
While Hononegah limited Lake Zurich to 84 rushing yards, Allgood averaged 16.5 yards on his 6 completions.
"We've been susceptible to the pass all year long," Sughroue said. "They hit a couple of big passes, but our kids played their hearts out. This was a good game. We model ourselves after a program like this. This is what we want to become. We're a few plays away here or there from being able to win these games."
"All the credit in the world to them," Moskal, who had 2 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery, said of Hononegah. "They fought hard the whole game. It's just our coaches and our game plan. We fought through adversity and we made plays."