Lake Zurich has winning answers at Fremd

By Michael Eaken
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 8/25/2017 11:23 PM

Lake Zurich had answered questions all off-season about a hazing scandal that overshadowed its football program and led to the eventual resignation of former coach David Proffit.

On Friday night, the Bears answered a few questions regarding the potential of this year's football team.

Lake Zurich's defense smothered Fremd's offense, and the Bears used two long scoring drives in the second half to pull away for a 21-3 opening night victory in Palatine.

"When I first came in, I immediately addressed the team about taking ownership of what happened last year," said first-year Bears coach Luke Mertens who directed the Lakes program for 13 seasons. "The kids have done a phenomenal job of taking ownership. Tonight was really needed -- not that we were trying to forget what happened, but it's time to also look forward."

Lake Zurich's defense, led by Wisconsin bound senior linebacker Jack Sanborn, held the Vikings offense to 149 total yards including 7 yards rushing. In the pivotal second half the Bears defense allowed only 36 total yards.

"Once we started the season we knew it was time to play football," said Sanborn. "Since the beginning of camp our focus has been on football and that showed tonight.

"I just believe we can became more confident as the game progressed, and it definitely gives us confidence going into next game."

Lake Zurich senior quarterback Evan Lewandowski completed 15 of 24 passes for 164 yards and found senior tight end Matthijs Enters for an 18-yard scoring pass to give the Bears a 7-0 advantage late in the first quarter.

Lake Zurich had 2 turnovers in the first half, including a fumble recovery by Fremd junior Nick Rattin, who returned it 30 yards setting up the Vikings on the LZ 20.

Fremd had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by senior Matt Mottonen, narrowing the deficit to 7-3 at halftime.

But it was all Lake Zurich in the second half.

The Bears opened the third quarter with an 11-play scoring drive capped by a 1-yard run by senior Joey Stutzman, increasing the lead to 14-3.

Stutzman rushed for 77 yards on 22 carries, powering the Bears' running game.

"The line came out strong and coaches were calling good play," added Stutzman of the key opening drive. "They made it easy for me. From there on we just needed to finish."

LZ increased its lead early in the fourth quarter with a 14-play scoring drive capped by a Lewandowski 1-yard plunge. Lewandowski kept the drive alive by finding junior Michael Gallus for a 29-yard gain on third down early in the drive.

Senior Ben Konopka proved to be a bright spot for the Fremd offense, catching 9 passes for 128 yards.

"We had 10 offensive plays in the second half and left our defense out there," said Fremd coach Lou Sponsel. "We just have to get better on offense. We're young but we'll get better."

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