Elk Grove's Nick Meyer gets gang tackled by Schaumburg's Kyle Koburi, Don Wiencek and Pat Felde in this quarterback keeper in the first quarter.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
The midway point of the regular season of high school football is here this weekend. Here's a look at some of the things happening around the Mid-Suburban League, St. Viator, Maine West and Leyden.
"Z" steps in for BG: Buffalo Grove was beaten up more than a bit before it was beaten 26-14 by Fremd in its MSL crossover.
Starting quarterback Mike Garrity was out with a concussion, running back Taylor Goyke was lost for the season with a torn ACL and they were without defensive lineman Ryan Brennan and center Trevor Chandler. Safety Connor Cheever has missed the last two weeks because of a concussion.
"It was a tough road to get through the West with three pretty physical games," said BG coach Jim Farrell. "It's not always who you start with but who you finish with. It's a war of attrition with football."
Farrell liked how junior Richie Zirngibl stepped in at quarterback and Jimmy Pinakidis took over at running back. Zirngibl, who quarterbacked the sophomore team to an 8-1 record, threw for 113 yards and rushed for 70 and Pinakidis rushed for 44 yards.
"Richie is a winner and a great athlete," Farrell said. "Our kids know they're in capable hands at quarterback. I don't think Mike Garrity is an easy kid to replace on any football team in this area, but we still know we can move the ball.
"Jimmy had to step up and he's another kid who is definitely more than capable of handling that load."
The good news is Chandler is returning this week as Farrell gets ready to see some old friends at Elk Grove, where he was an assistant before taking over at BG three years ago.
Conant looks for better approach: Giving up 27 second-half points in last week's 34-7 loss to Hersey helped get the point across about how Conant needs to start going about things in practice.
"I was really disappointed in how we played and it was more about us than anything else," said Conant coach Bill Modelski. "They did a good job and we didn't, but we were just asking for it really in the way we approached things."
Grens face old friend: There are still players at Elk Grove familiar with former assistant and current Buffalo Grove head coach Jim Farrell going into tonight's matchup.
"This is an emotional game for BG and we know that," said Elk Grove coach Brian Doll. "Our kids know coach Farrell very well and Nick (Meyer) knows him extremely well and has a lot of respect for him."
But Meyer will try to keep doing what he's been doing by carving up opposing defenses with his legs and arm. Doll compared Meyer's competitiveness to what he saw when he was at New Trier and coached three-sport star Matt Lottich 10 years ago.
"Right now Nick is playing at a different level," Doll said. "His competitive nature is different than any kid I've been around in awhile."
The Grens are also getting good news on the injury front with Kyle Pass missing only two-to-three weeks with a sprained MCL in his knee. Eddie Stahl's ankle is getting closer to 100 percent and lineman Justin Cruz could return this week.
That's left Doll with few complaints.
"If you asked me if we were 3-1, if I was pretty happy for the first four games," Doll said, "I would have said yeah, it's a good place to be."
Knights' running duo: Prospect has been more grounded after two years of the Miles Osei aerial show.
But the combination of Peter Bonahoom basically averaging a first down every time he carries the ball and quarterback Steve Dazzo is still running defenses ragged. They have combined for 1,097 yards rushing and 14 TDs.
"This offense reminds me most of 2005 where we went through a five-game stretch where we barely threw the football," Prospect coach Brent Pearlman said of his third state title team. "It's kind of become our personality.
"I'm confident we could throw more if we wanted to but right now we'll keep doing what we're doing. Steve has completed some key passes."
Bonahoom's play keeps earning rave reviews.
"The bottom line is Bonahoom just took over," Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly said of last week's 41-27 loss to the Knights.
"The whole thing comes down to Bonahoom," said Hersey coach Dragan Teonic of tonight's matchup. "He's so good. He's bigger and faster and better than I expected him to be. And it's hard to stop him because Dazzo runs well."
Fremd finds a way: Fremd turned back the clock as it snapped its worst start in 20 years with its first win in four games.
"It was reminiscent of what we are," said Fremd coach Mike Donatucci. "We won the turnover battle, we controlled time of possession and we ran the ball well. Up until the fourth quarter we played pretty solid defense and three kids came off the bench and did a heck of a job."
Senior Vince Farella had 2 interceptions and A.J. McGhee rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown. Freshman quarterback Sam Beutler threw for 139 yards and the first TD of the game.
Beutler did a lot of work in grade school with former Fremd all-area captains and now college quarterbacks Scott and Mark Tolzien.
"He reminds me a little bit of (Barrington's Garrett) Seeger," Donatucci said of the last MSL quarterback to see significant varsity time as a freshman. "He's very mature and probably the second- or third-fastest kid on the team. He's definitely a good athlete.
"That's what you get when you hang around the Tolziens the last four years of your life. He came in knowing and not learning."
Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling was also impressed with Beutler.
"I don't think you watch him and say this kid doesn't belong out there," Stilling said. "There's no doubt he was the one running the show when he came in (last) Thursday night. And he had experienced kids around him who responded."
Pirates gaining more power: Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly said his team "weathered the storm" by going 2-2 despite injuries and inexperience.
But the Pirates are getting closer to full strength with receiver Nick McHugh and offensive lineman Layne Kirch coming back this week. Sophomore running back John Serio returned to practice and could be back next week.
Dan Haze is back playing on both sides of the ball and figures to be joined soon in the secondary by quarterback Cody Bobbit.
"The bottom line is we're getting to where we can use Cody any way we can and that's kind of exciting for us," Donnelly said. "We've played some good teams and we played Prospect really well other than the fourth quarter."
Turnovers preventing Hoffman turnaround: Hoffman Estates coach Bill Helzer tried a different approach to curing the turnover issues that have resulted in 16 in three games.
Helzer took a page from the movie "The Program" with players carrying footballs around school and teammates trying to knock them away in the halls.
"We said let's have some fun with it and try a different philosophy," Helzer said.
But the mistakes haven't been a laughing matter as it has been shutout the last two games and has only 10 points. Helzer said the fumble problems haven't been a function of pitchout problems in the triple option.
"It's being careless with the ball and not taking care of it in traffic," Helzer said. "It's contagious. The encouraging thing is last week it was only 28-0 (loss to Meadows) with seven giveaways.
"We're trying to stay confident and telling the kids, 'imagine if we don't turn the ball over.'"
Helzer turned to junior quarterback Mike Stanford last week to see if he could spark the offense since senior David Gutierrez was a little banged up. Helzer said Gutierrez would be back in control of the offense tonight.
But Helzer has high hopes for the 6-foot-3 Stanford, who moved in from Texas at the end of the last school year.
"He's got a big arm," Helzer said. "He runs good shotgun, zone stuff."
Saxons look to rebound: Schaumburg had no time to waste dwelling on its first loss with seven-time MSL West champion Fremd coming for a visit in tonight's division openers.
"Our leaders are extremely mature," said Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling. "They handled our early successes well and I think they responded well to what happened Thursday night (36-34 loss to Elk Grove).
"We didn't need to say a lot about Fremd's (1-3) record not being an indicator of what kind of team they are."
One that's much different from last week when they faced the game-breaking Nick Meyer. This week it's the potential backbreaking big line led by Ohio State-bound Brian Bobek and Northwestern-bound Jack Konopka and bruising running back Justin Wallace.
"It's going to be a physical game," Stilling said. "Their offensive line pounds you and I thought they looked more like a Fremd team to me (last week). They took advantage and made you pay for your mistakes."
Stilling hopes the Saxons cleared up some of the errors from last week.
"There were some mental things kids did in key situations that we don't typically do," Stilling said. "Against a quality team like we saw last week, and we're going to see the next five weeks, you can't do that. It's going to come back to haunt us."
Tough loss for Viator: St. Viator hoped to get senior defensive lineman Anthony Pensa back from a torn ACL to put pressure on prolific St. Patrick quarterback Ryan Tentler tonight. Pensa tried to practice this week but couldn't come back and was scheduled to have surgery today.
"That's part of the deal," Viator coach Chris Kirkpatrick said of the nature of football.
But that deal also included getting senior quarterback Cameron Korab back from an ankle injury last week.
"It's always a big plus to be able to come in and do that after being out a week," Kirkpatrick said of Korab accounting for 336 total yards in last week's win over Nazareth.
So was facing a good quarterback in Nazareth's Matt Behrendt before facing Tentler this week.
"We have to be a little more disciplined and we can't get sucked up when they do break contain," Kirkpatrick said.
Maybe not the worst timing: Things were rolling along nicely for first-year Hersey coach Dragan Teonic with a 3-1 record going into tonight's game at Prospect. But four starters will be out this week for athletic code violations.
"If there is any good news, it's good it happened now and to a first-year head coach," Teonic said. "You get a chance to really lay down the law.
"We have kids who are still learning how to win and be winners. We're making great strides in that direction but they're going to places they've never been before.
"Being 3-1 and being good and taking on a good team in Prospect comes with good things we understand as adults but they don't as kids."
But Teonic is confident the Huskies can get through what's happened with players like Steve Kuc filling a void at cornerback after concentrating on playing running back for most of the year.
"We have a good football team and it's a team game," Teonic said. "We have kids stepping in who have all played before."
Leyden looks for a boost: Offensive lineman Elmer Guzman and tailback Justin Bolo are the Homecoming kings at Leyden's two campuses.
Leyden coach Tom Cerasani would like to see them give his offense some royal treatment.
"We've had five 1,000-yard rushers in a row so this is different for us," Cerasani said of his scuffling offense. "I think we have a good quarterback (Joey DiFronzo) and a pretty good set of receivers so we'll see if we can open up the run that way a little bit.
"Our passing game has been pretty good but we've dropped some balls and had some interceptions."
Quarterback Jack at Meadows: Rolling Meadows coach Doug Millsaps turned to sophomore Jack Milas to play quarterback last week and he responded with 4 TD passes in a 28-0 win over Hoffman Estates.
"I was impressed," said Hoffman coach Bill Helzer. "He showed a lot of poise back there. We rushed him and he stood tall and threw the ball."
Now Wheeling gets its shot at Milas and Meadows.
"He looks pretty good," said Wheeling coach Dave Dunbar. "He reads the zone real well and Matt (assistant coach and former Wheeling assistant) Mishler coaches him up well. We have to make sure we're doing our job, otherwise he can hurt us."
Maine West needs to be its best: Maine West was unable to capitalize on two quality scoring chances in last week's loss to Maine South.
"Obviously going up against the two-time state champs we had to be perfect," said Maine West coach Chris Hare. "We can't hurt ourselves. If we don't hurt ourselves and play smart football we can be right in the game with almost anyone."
Honoring Pearlman: Prospect will have a ceremony to honor departing head coach Brent Pearlman between the sophomore and varsity games of the regular-season home finale with Buffalo Grove on Oct. 22. There will also be a postgame celebration for former players, parents and the community in the Jean Walker Field House.