Rolling Meadows football coach Matt Mishler has built his program on excelling in the run game, but a big pass play gave the Mustangs their biggest boost on Friday night against Wheeling.
Mustangs quarterback Asher O'Hara faked the Wildcats secondary out with a play-action pass, scanned the field, and found a streaking Marco Taibi down the right sideline for a picture-perfect 43-yard touchdown pass. The big splash made it a 21-3 game, which led to a 28-10 Rolling Meadows victory.
"I knew I had to make a play on the ball," Taibi said. "We were running (verticals). I saw the safety getting depth, and (O'Hara) threw it right away. I just raised my hands up and made a play."
Asher only threw the ball 11 times all game, and completed 10 passes to three different receivers for 113 yards.
The bulk of the Rolling Meadow offense came from the running game.
Kevin Lacosse rushed for 88 yards on 18 rushes while O'Hara rushed for 79. The Mustangs' short but effective rushes helped keep the Wildcat offense on the bench. Eighteen of Lacosse's rushes were 10 yards or less.
"We challenged our (offensive line) this week, " Mishler said. "We knew going in that we needed a good push from our guys up front."
The only Rolling Meadow pass play in the second half went for an interception. Wheeling safety Mao Gurney read the eyes of O'Hara, and had to make a diving catch moving towards his right in order to create the only turnover of the game.
"Thanks for reminding me," Mishler said. "It was a terrible call, and I shouldn't have made that call. We shouldn't have thrown the ball once in the second half."
The Mustangs weren't the only team to run the ball at a higher rate than passing.
Senior Jason Shannon was a workhorse for the Wildcats, as he rushed for 117 yards on 22 rushes. He and quarterback Jalen Dennis combined for 178 yards on the ground.
"I thought (Dennis and Shannon) got loose a lot," Mishler said. "I don't think we contained them. I suppose we did on the scoreboard. Our defense has been pretty staunch against the run.
"They were tough. They do some great things up front and those guys just run so stinking hard. They did a good job of mixing it up with them. They have a good system and it is really hard to defend."
Wheeling got its first touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats used 19-play drive which featured 10 plays of Shannon. The senior finished off the drive with a 7-yard scamper up the right sideline.
"Wheeling plays so hard," Mishler said. "They are so well-coached. I knew it was going to be a dogfight. The score was not an indicator of how hard fought that game was."
The win on Friday night makes it five for Rolling Meadows, which means they stay perfect going into their tilt against Prospect next week. Wheeling will fall to 1-4 on the season and 0-1 in the Mid-Suburban East.