Teams
Daily Herald's 2016 Season Coverage
teaser 1
teaser 2
updated: 11/26/2016 8:26 PM

Powerful Peoria denies Vernon Hills

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.comVernon Hills' Chick Smith shows the second-place trophy to fans following the Cougars' 62-48 loss to Peoria during the Class 5A football state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

    Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.comVernon Hills' Chick Smith shows the second-place trophy to fans following the Cougars' 62-48 loss to Peoria during the Class 5A football state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

  • Vernon Hills' Drew Winegardner steps into the end zone with a touchdown during the first quarter of the Class 5A football state championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Drew Winegardner steps into the end zone with a touchdown during the first quarter of the Class 5A football state championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Chris Mariella (1) catches the ball for a completion in front of Peoria's Orlando Moore during the Class 5A football state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Chris Mariella (1) catches the ball for a completion in front of Peoria's Orlando Moore during the Class 5A football state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Chris Mariella carries the ball to the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown as Peoria's Jalen Blake attempts to tackle him during the Class 5A football state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Chris Mariella carries the ball to the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown as Peoria's Jalen Blake attempts to tackle him during the Class 5A football state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills quarterback Kyle Hull carries the ball for a second-quarter touchdown against Peoria during the Class 5A football state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills quarterback Kyle Hull carries the ball for a second-quarter touchdown against Peoria during the Class 5A football state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Darek Jarrell goes airborne to pick up extra yardage during the second quarter of the Class 5A football state championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Darek Jarrell goes airborne to pick up extra yardage during the second quarter of the Class 5A football state championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Nick Marras watches the final seconds tick off the clock during his team's 62-48 loss to Peoria in the Class 5A football state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Nick Marras watches the final seconds tick off the clock during his team's 62-48 loss to Peoria in the Class 5A football state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Max Lyle, left, hugs teammate Jeffrey Rosenstock following their team's 62-48 loss to Peoria in the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Max Lyle, left, hugs teammate Jeffrey Rosenstock following their team's 62-48 loss to Peoria in the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills captains, from left, Jeffrey Rosenstock, Kyle Hull, McNemon Vincent and Andrew Smith, stand with the second-place trophy following their team's 62-48 loss to Peoria in the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills captains, from left, Jeffrey Rosenstock, Kyle Hull, McNemon Vincent and Andrew Smith, stand with the second-place trophy following their team's 62-48 loss to Peoria in the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Trey Hommer, right, is unable to stop Peoria's Jaleen James as he rolls into the end zone for a third-quarter touchdown during the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Trey Hommer, right, is unable to stop Peoria's Jaleen James as he rolls into the end zone for a third-quarter touchdown during the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Drew Winegardner (22) swats away a Peoria pass as teammate Jake Morris runs toward the play during the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Drew Winegardner (22) swats away a Peoria pass as teammate Jake Morris runs toward the play during the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Max Lyle makes a reception during the Class 5A football championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Max Lyle makes a reception during the Class 5A football championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Drew Winegardner makes a touchdown reception during the fourth quarter of the Class 5A football championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Drew Winegardner makes a touchdown reception during the fourth quarter of the Class 5A football championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Peoria's Aaron Jowers catches a touchdown pass in front of Vernon Hills' Drew Winegardner  during the fourth quarter of the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Peoria's Aaron Jowers catches a touchdown pass in front of Vernon Hills' Drew Winegardner during the fourth quarter of the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Max Lyle catches a pass during the Class 5A football championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Max Lyle catches a pass during the Class 5A football championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills quarterback Kyle Hull gets sacked by Peoria's Jaleen James during the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills quarterback Kyle Hull gets sacked by Peoria's Jaleen James during the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Peoria quarterback Coran Taylor carries the ball into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown as Vernon Hills' Luke Perlin hangs on during the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Peoria quarterback Coran Taylor carries the ball into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown as Vernon Hills' Luke Perlin hangs on during the Class 5A football championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Max Lyle carries the ball for a first-quarter touchdown during the Class 5A football championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Max Lyle carries the ball for a first-quarter touchdown during the Class 5A football championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Vernon Hills' Max Lyle, right, celebrates his first-quarter touchdown with teammate Chris Mariella during the Class 5A football championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.

      Vernon Hills' Max Lyle, right, celebrates his first-quarter touchdown with teammate Chris Mariella during the Class 5A football championship game against Peoria at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Saturday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

CHAMPAIGN -- Trying to make one more play, on a day he made plenty, Kyle Hull just couldn't.

Vernon Hills' quarterback was leveled from behind while scrambling. He fumbled, lost the ball and lay on the Memorial Stadium turf wounded in more ways than one. Peoria was just more than a minute away from completing a 62-48 win Saturday in the Class 5A state championship game.

"It was either a helmet or a cleat. It got me in the shin," Hull said. "Just a stinger."

He eventually walked to the sideline, head down.

"I wasn't feeling very good about the whole situation," he explained.

When Hull eventually reviews this season, it won't sting. The senior won't remember the stinger. His head will be up. What he and his teammates will cherish is that they fashioned the best season in the 17-year history of Vernon Hills football.

The Cougars (10-4), who had never advanced to the state semifinals, fell to a Peoria juggernaut that piled up a state-record 805 points this season. Before Saturday, the most points Vernon Hills had allowed in a game was 25. Peoria (13-1), which won its first state title, hit 28 points with 9:12 left in the second quarter. The combined 110 points scored were five short of the 5A record.

Lions junior running back Geno Hess rushed for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns on 30 carries, while junior quarterback Coran Taylor rushed 18 times for 134 yards and 3 scores and completed 14 of 17 passes for 215 yards and 2 TDs, both to senior Aaron Jowers.

"Their offense is just so high-powered," Vernon Hills linebacker Chick Smith said. "It's just something we've never seen before. We come from a very good conference (Central Suburban League). Very good offenses. Very good defenses. But these guys were just one step above that."

"Hats off to Peoria," said Vernon Hills' Drew Winegardner, who set a 5A record with 19 receptions. "The most fun I've ever had playing a game."

Earlier in the week, Cougars coach Bill Bellecomo said Peoria, on film, reminded him of the Carolina Panthers. Maybe he wasn't joking.

"They're dynamic athletes and they're tough to stop," Bellecomo said. "They're big kids, but we gave it all we had. When you see them up close, they're really big."

Hull played huge. He completed a 5A-record 45 passes (59 attempts) for 426 yards and 6 touchdowns, and he also had 21 carries for 42 yards and a TD.

"He's very shifty," Peoria senior defensive lineman Kendrick Green said. "He was really hard to get a hold of. He made some plays with his feet, scrambled out and completed some good passes."

Winegardner shattered the record for receptions. His 19 catches (128 yards, 3 TDs) were 7 more than the previous mark.

"They were playing off me the whole game," Winegardner said. "Kyle was able to find me for a couple of short routes. We were trying to get some yards, get out of bounds, get the offense going."

Vernon Hills ran 86 plays (63 passes) and included were reverses and double reverses. Winegardner, a running back, threw 3 passes, including one to former running back Hull for 12 yards. Six Cougars caught passes.

"I was joking with Coach (Corey) Atwell," said Bellecomo, who didn't think his Cougars could run against Peoria's front four. "I said, 'Do we have anything left (in the playbook)?' He said, 'I think I pulled it all out.' "

In a game that featured 16 touchdowns, one stood out for Bellecomo. Vernon Hills had just gone up 28-21 on Chris Mariella' leaping 25-yard catch from Hull with 9:23 left in the second quarter. But on the ensuing kickoff, Peoria's Miguel Fenderson picked up a bouncing ball at the 17 and sped to the end zone.

Vernon Hills regained the lead when Hull zigged into the end zone from 3 yards out to cap a nine-play drive. But Peoria got TD runs of 1 yard from Hess and 13 yards from Smith to go into halftime up 40-35. Hess' score capped a 14-play drive that included a fourth-and-8 conversion, when Taylor stretched for a 9-yard gain to the Vernon Hills 11.

"I thought we had some momentum going, and that (83-yard) returned kickoff hurt a little bit," Bellecomo said.

Peoria punted only once and ran 80 plays.

"We wanted to get the play count as high as we could get it," Lions coach Tim Thornton said. "We noticed going into halftime they were about 20 plays away from their average, end of game. Anytime we have that stat in the locker room at halftime, our kids get a little excited."

While Peoria didn't give the ball away, the Lions forced 3 turnovers (all in the second half), including Hull's late fumble. Bolo Carruthers picked off Hull in the third quarter after Green swatted the ball at the line of scrimmage, and Jazzston Logan got an interception in the fourth.

Mariella (99 yards) and Nick Marras (55 yards) each had 8 receptions for Vernon Hills. Max Lyle caught six passes for 133 yards, including a 50-yarder to open the Cougars' scoring, and sophomore Derek Jarrell had 5 catches for 48 yards. Jarrell had an 8-yard TD grab early in the third to put Vernon Hills up 42-40, but Peoria took the lead for good on Jaleen James' 17-yard run and his PAT run.

Jowers' 14-yard TD catch had the Lions ahead 54-42 after three.

"We did not want to get into a track meet with these guys," Bellecomo said. "We just couldn't stop them."

No Peoria opponent did this season.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.