Any slim hope of reaching the playoffs this year was dashed for Vernon Hills on Thursday as the Cougars fell short 24-8 against host Deerfield in a Central Suburban North football game on Thursday night.
The Cougars (1-5, 0-2) needed a victory and to win out over their final three games to gain playoff eligibility, but a young roster and a rash of injuries kept them from reaching that goal.
"I thought our guys stepped up and played hard," Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo said. "We just had to find more time for our QB.
"Some years, you're lucky without injuries, and last year we didn't have any. This year it has been up on us, like four years ago. This game is about that, but you've got to prepare kids to step up and take lead roles when they have to. We will get better and should finish the year out strong."
Deerfield (3-3, 2-0) managed to control most of the game, scoring 24 unanswered points before Vernon Hills found the end zone.
The Warriors' game plan -- run, run and more run -- was too much for the Cougars' defense to handle.
Deerfield running back Kenneth Kerstein (23 carries, 230 yards and a rushing touchdown) made a big difference, while Ari Nadler scored on a 51-yard run and followed up by catching a 22-yard pass for a score.
"We played well and kept our role defensively," Deerfield coach Steve Winiecki said. "Offensively, we were hitting on all cylinders even though we missed a little bit a couple of times. (Vernon Hills) was a scrappy team and did some really good things. Our kids always compete. Defensively, on one or two drives we did the bend but didn't break. On offense, we're getting better and better each week."
Deerfield kicker Ara Emerzian started the scoring with a 32-yard field goal with 2:17 left in the opening quarter for a 3-0 lead.
The Warriors' Nadler broke free for a 51-yard scamper with 11:48 left in the second quarter to increase the lead to 10-0. Nadler made it 17-0 with 9:20 left in the half by catching a 22-yard TD pass from Jonah Silverglade.
Deerfield added one more score with 4:18 remaining in the second on Kerstein's 14-yard rushing TD for the 24-0 lead at the break.
Vernon Hills tried to rally a bit in the third quarter as Derek Jarrell (9 catches, 84 yards) caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jack Himel (18 of 23 passing for 136 yards and 1 interception). The Cougars added a 2-point conversion on a pass play that made the score 24-8 with 2:49 left in the third.
Vernon Hills did get another drive going on its next possession but was stopped at the Warriors' 3 with an interception by Deerfield's Ethan Saks.