Conant clinches MSL West title

 
By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent

A terrific all-around effort from senior Anthony Wachal led Conant to one of its biggest wins of the season Friday night against Palatine.

Wachal's 3 interceptions from his linebacker position, to go along with a great leaping touchdown grab on the offensive side, paced the Cougars to a 41-7 Mid-Suburban West home field win over the visiting Pirates.

Conant forced 5 turnovers in the game to improve to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the West. With Hoffman Estates' loss to Barrington, the win clinched the MSL West title for the Cougars.

"I've said it before about Anthony," said Cougars coach Bryan Stortz. "At the end of my career, if I'm picking kids to play on my team, he's one of those guys."

Cougars quarterback Kevin Polaski threw for 132 yards and rushed for 118 more.

"I just think it's rewarding for our kids for all the hard work they've put in in the offseason," added Stortz, "and the entire year. To get out here on the field on a Friday night under the lights is something special for them."

Sophomore Ronald Todd ran the ball 16 times for 62 yards for Palatine, while senior teammate Jake Gronwick added 55 yards on the ground.

"Hard to overcome those turnovers," said Palatine coach Corey Olson. "I'm going to credit Conant ­-- they came out ready to play and they're a good, tough football team. "

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"We did not come our ready to play, and when you're not ready, that's on me."

After a 26-yard field goal from Jessica Smeltzer gave Conant a 3-0 lead, Wachal picked off a Palatine pass on the next Pirates' possession and took it the house to increase the advantage to 10-0.

"I just dropped back in coverage, did everything my coaches told me," said Wachal of the pick-6. "Got my hands up and took off running."

Wachal had another interception in the first half, as did teammate Derek Lewandowski, while junior Zach Valas had a fumble recovery.

On offense in the first two quarters, Smeltzer kicked another field goal, this time from 23 yards away, while Malik Frederick (1-yard run), Davon Holmes (6-yard run) and Bradley Spates (32-yard sweep down the right sideline) all scored for the Cougars.

Conant led 34-0 at intermission.

"We were kind of able to jump on those guys and we were all about that this week," said Stortz." Come out fast, get on top of this team and see if we could put some doubt in their mind. I think we did that right off the bat."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Wachal got his third interception early in the third quarter and on the next possession, split wide to the right, he made a great catch in the back of the end zone on a 26-yard strike from Polaski to make the score 41-0.

"I knew it was coming," said Wachal of the TD pass. "We had the play called in the huddle and Kev threw a perfect ball, it couldn't have been better."

Palatine finally broke through in the fourth quarter on a long drive when Todd scored from 2 yards out.

Junior wide receiver Luka Popovic caught 5 passes for 36 yards for Palatine, while Luke Vanbooven finished with 85 yards receiving for Conant.

"Our kids are really putting forth their best effort to come out and perform at the best of their abilities," added Stortz. "I really thought that's what they concentrated on this week. It's all about what happens during the week, not just on Friday night."

"We knew Palatine was going to come out and play hard," said Wachal. "We just gave it our all tonight."

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