Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler calls Nick Delporte a special player.
And it just so happens Delporte plays on special teams.
His third blocked punt of the season came less than four minutes into Friday night's Mid-Suburban East football game against visiting Prospect.
The senior was "Johnny on the spot" as he scooped up the football and raced 18 yards for a touchdown that jump-started the Mustangs' 33-0 shutout on a damp night in Rolling Meadows.
Meadows (6-0, 2-0) clinched a berth in the state playoffs with the win over the Knights (3-3, 1-1).
"Our coach (Jeremy Harkins, who directs the punt return team) just sets things up real well," said the modest Delporte, who also had a big fumble recovery and sack in the game. "He puts us in the best position to be successful. The snap was a little high. I knew I would have a little extra time. Then the ball fell perfectly into my hands."
Mishler knows he is in good hands no matter where he puts Delporte, also a safety and running back.
"He's so fast and plays with an unbelievable motion," Mishler said, referring to the blocked punt. "He's just got a knack for it. You'd like for him to get more touches on offense but he is so valuable on defense."
RM quarterback Asher O'Hara (136 rushing yards and 109 passing, including a 15-yard TD strike to Devonte Amoss) and running back Kevin Lacosse (92 yards and 3 touchdown runs) were quite valuable on the offensive side.
"Asher plays with a lot of passion," Mishler said. "He got hit a lot and kept bouncing up. He's just a tough, tough kid. We kind of go as he goes, and it helps when the offensive line (Thomas Larson, Willam Rezny, Andrew Neville, Dawson Krull and Zhontrel Payne) grinds it out."
The Mustangs' defensive line made its share of big plays, too, such as Kevin Haltman's quarterback sack on a fourth-down play for Prospect late in the first half.
"Our defensive line (Haltman, Brian Jacks, Marco Perez, Jesus de la Torre, Manny Luna III and Luis Robledo) stepped up, too," Mishler said. "If you let Prospect ground it out and control the clock, that can be trouble and I thought we did what we had to do."
Unfortunately for Prospect, senior QB Andrew Shafis had to leave the game in the first quarter with an injury and Knights coach Mike Sebestyen was uncertain of the severity.
"When they lost Shafis, that hurt big-time," Mishler said. "It was nice being able to set the tone right at the start with the blocked punt and our defense played well the whole way against an offense that is very good at what it does."
Junior Nick Ergastolo, listed as a wide receiver, tight end and defensive back in the program, took over at quarterback for Prospect. He completed 8-of-13 passes for 122 yards.
"Not only did he do a nice job for not getting a lot of reps in practice, it was his first game as a quarterback in our program," Sebestyen said. "Nick did a nice job under fire to keep the ship steady. He came in at a tough part of the game (Knights' down 14-0 on Delporte's big play and 3-yard TD run by Lacosse)."
"Andrew (Shafis) is a very good role model for me," Ergastolo said. "He is like a brother to me. I just tried to stay focused and keep my head in the game."