Warren takes lead on Lake Zurich before bad weather hits
Early first impressions about Warren and Lake Zurich's game Friday night were that the game would be would great one, not to mention how important it would be in the conference standings.
After all, last year's classic featured a Hail Mary and overtime as the Bears beat the Blue Devils 41-35.
However, this year's theatrics, if any, would have to wait.
A lightning delay halted a Warren drive deep in Lake Zurich territory, and the two teams will resume play Saturday morning at 11 a.m. The game will pick up with Blue Devils leading 7-3, facing a 2nd-and-8 on Lake Zurich's 13-yard line with 4:21 left in the first half.
"It impacts both teams," Lake Zurich coach Luke Mertens said of the delay. "It is what it is."
The impact on both teams might be the deciding factor for the North Suburban Conference crown. A Lake Zurich win would put the Bears ahead of Stevenson and Warren in the NSC standings with two games to play, while a Warren win would keep the Blue Devils undefeated in conference play, and set up what could be a conference-deciding game against Stevenson next week.
Warren could not have asked for a better start for such a crucial game, either.
The Bears' first offensive play from scrimmage was a rollout to the right, and quarterback Matt McGraw's pass was intercepted by a leaping Warren safety Brian Mohry. The very next play, the Blue Devils' first, running back Martin Walker strolled in from 23 yards out to give Warren a 7-0 lead 13 seconds into the game.
McGraw would shake off that early interception and lead a Lake Zurich drive that ended with a 24-yard field goal by Andrew Stange.
Warren's defense tightened up in the second quarter, as cornerback Tavion McCarthy intercepted McGraw a second time and the defense recorded three sacks.
"We knew we were playing a physical defense, and we knew we're playing a physical offense," Mertens said. "They're bouncing some runs outside that we've got to do a better job of taking care of our perimeter."
Through a quarter and a half, Walker was seemingly Warren's only offensive catalyst. Blue Devil quarterback Philip Hird's first pass, much like his opposing counterpart, was picked off, and has only one completion so far for zero yards.
Walker rumbled for runs of 23, 17 and 19 yards, as he'll add to an outstanding first half total of 14 carries for 111 yards and the game's lone score. Walker's presence also led Warren to Lake Zurich's 13-yard line with runs of 13 and 19 yards, right before the game was halted.
With his team struggling in specific areas offensively and defensively, Mertens said his message to his Lake Zurich team going into to tomorrow morning is to "Buck up."
"You can't give the ball up and expect to win," Mertens said. "We're going to come back and play football, and may the best team win."