Waubonsie Valley's Connolly steals the show
The DuPage Valley Conference debut of Waubonsie Valley on Friday in Aurora was billed as a battle between the Warriors' unstoppable running game led by Max Ihry and Lake Park's immovable defense anchored by Michigan State-bound Mike Panasiuk.
But it was Waubonsie Valley rookie quarterback Jack Connolly who stole the show.
Connolly threw a 60-yard strike to sophomore Charles Robinson to set up the Warriors' first touchdown, then scampered 74 yards late in the second quarter for another to spark Waubonsie Valley to a 27-6 victory over Lake Park.
Connolly's long touchdown run came on a play where he had no choice but to run the ball.
"We kept telling him you got to become part of the running game," said Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy. "Why are we running the option? I called that play. He's got no choice. He's running the ball, and if he gets drilled, that's the way it goes.
"We had to wake him up and get him moving his feet. He has to be on the perimeter and if nothing's open he's got to tuck it and go. He's got to become dangerous so teams have to put a spy on him. That gives less guys in coverage."
Connolly's statistics were modest. He completed just 5 of 15 passes for 87 yards and ran for 57 yards on seven carries. But he completed a 19-yard pass to Robinson and ran nine yards late in the third quarter to set up Ihry's 13-yard touchdown run that gave Waubonsie Valley a 21-6 lead.
"I passed up a lot of opportunities that really cost us in the first half," Connolly said. "I started running more and good things started to happen. I was nervous. It was senior night, the stands were packed and all your friends are screaming. My nerves were all over the place. But after the first play, they were gone."
Lake Park took the second-half kickoff and marched 71 yards to close to within 14-6 on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jaron Fields to Anthony Marino, but the Lancers lost starting running back Melvin Smiley to injury and turned the ball over on two of their next three possessions.
"We lost our backup running back three days ago to a knee injury, and once our starting running back went out it was tough," said Lake Park coach Chris Roll. "Melvin is such a hard-working running back, and when he went down that was so hard to recover from.
"In all honesty we made enough mistakes tonight for a whole season, and that's not our game."