A trick play on the first snap from scrimmage? Yep, and it almost worked.
Lake Zurich made news on Friday night at Mundelein. It now has a regular-season unbeaten mark at 9-0.
Bears running back Joey Stutzman scored 3 touchdowns as Lake Zurich rolled to a 42-14 victory over the Mustangs to clinch an outright North Suburban Conference championship.
"It's a great feeling,'' Stutzman said. "It's the best one in awhile. Now comes crunch time, with the playoffs."
One of those folks on the offensive line also felt good about the undefeated season. Ian Fitzgerald (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) helped keep his quarterback, Evan Lewandowski, safe on this night.
"This is something to be proud of,'' Fitzgerald said. "This makes up for last season. We had this goal in mind. There was some pent-up anger at losing to Montini and Stevenson last year. We made amends and proved ourselves."
Now, back to the opening play from scrimmage. Lewandowski (12-16, 286 yards, 3 TD) did not throw the first pass. He, however, was on the receiving end of a pass. And it kind of escaped him.
"He has the best hands on the team,'' said Lake Zurich coach Luke Mertens.
Still, an unbeaten season was quite the present for this first-year coach at Lake Zurich.
"I never thought about it,'' Mertens admitted. "We needed to survive the Fremd game and survive the Montini game. And in that game at Warren (double overtime), we had a lot of opportunities to quit but we didn't. And ready or not, we are headed to the postseason."
Stutzman (13 carries, 82 yards) was involved in the both scoring plays of the opening quarter. He carried three times in a row on the Bears' second possession for the opening score from a yard out. Lake Zurich linebacker Jack Sanborn fell on a Mundelein fumble on the Mustangs' first play of its second drive.
Seven seconds later, Stutzman took a 26 yard pass from Lewandowski and the Bears were up 14-0. Actually, Stutzman's longest run from scrimmage (28 yards) came when Lewandowski picked up a bad snap and tipped it to Stutzman.
"That was funny,'' Stutzman noted. " 'Lew' is so athletic, he made a play out of nothing. We are thrilled to be where we are now. It's all due to the coaches and the players."
The Bears threatened to put this game out of reach early in the second quarter. Matthijs Enters snared a 23-yard TD pass from Lewandowski on the opening play of the second quarter. In the final minutes of the second quarter, Lewandowski snapped a 54-yard scoring play with Jack Moses. The half ended with Lake Zurich up 28-0.
Lake Zurich junior, Ryan Vrenios fell on another Mundelein fumble to open the second half. Stutzman again found the end zone and this game looked over at 35-0. However, playing in their final game of the season, the Mustangs refused to lay down as athletic QB Anthony Nelson began to make noise with his legs and arms. This senior got his club on the board with a quick strike to Isaiah Wellman from the 4.
Lake Zurich gave Lewandowski the rest of the night off. The Bears used Moses and Jason Wollard at the quarterback position for most of the second half.
Moses showed off his athleticism on a 20-yard scoring play in the fourth quarter. Norris scored the final touchdown of the season for Mundelein on a 5-yard dash.