Rolling Meadows downs Buffalo Grove to finish 9-0
As Rolling Meadows High School was opening its doors for the first time in the late summer of 1971 a one-hit wonder Motown act named The Undisputed Truth had a No. 3 hit song with "Smiling Faces Sometimes".
On Friday night the varsity football team that represents the school laid to rest any disputing as to who are the top trotters in the Mid-Suburban East horserace for 2018 as the Mustangs galloped past host Buffalo Grove 34-7 at Grant Blaney Stadium to earn the MSL East crown outright. It is their sixth MSL East crown (outright or shared) in the last seven years.
The victory also earned Meadows (9-0, 5-0) its second undefeated regular season in the last three years and third overall in program history. It also marked the fifth time a Mustang team has posted 9 wins in a season with both accomplishments dating back to the year 2000.
The Mustangs were able to set the pace beginning with a Tim Szylak 58-yard TD jaunt on the first play of their second offensive series putting them ahead 7-0 with 6:25 remaining in the opening quarter.
Then Szylak's fellow senior backfield mates -- running back Jace O'Hara and quarterback Arek Kleniuk -- took over from that point as they combined for 223 of Rolling Meadows' 302 yards on the ground for the night. The Mustang signalcaller's 1-yard sneak put them ahead 14-0 with 9:20 remaining until halftime. He ended up with 181 yards total offense for the evening (119 passing, 62 rushing).
"I thought that we didn't play well to start off the game, but after Tim got going early both Jace and Arek got some huge plays for us," Meadows coach Matt Mishler said of the Mustang attack that totaled 401 yards on the offensive side of the ledger.
O'Hara (25 carries, 161 yards) would add a pair of 3-yard TD runs in the second half that were sandwiched around junior Jordan Wiles' 14-yard end-around that left the visitors up 34-0 with 6:53 to play.
"Our coaches preached to us about coming out with both a strong energy as well as hustling out there from the beginning," O'Hara said.
The 5-foot-10 runner gave his offensive line of seniors Joe Boyer, John Carlstrom, Andy Baroota, Josh DeLuca and junior Tommy Schell all the credit for paving the way for the offense.
"Those guys created the holes that allowed us to have those opportunities which allowed us to succeed," O'Hara said. "We couldn't have been successful without them tonight."
Meanwhile, the Meadows defense kept the Bison (5-4, 2-3) under wraps most of the game as they held them to just 130 yards total offense, including just a yard on the ground. Only a 10-yard Connor Adams TD pass to Sam Verdico with 3:40 left prevented a shutout.
"Our defense has played lights out all season and tonight was no exception," Mishler said.
Buffalo Grove will now wait for Saturday night's release of the IHSA's playoff pairings to find out its fate. The Bison will have 39 playoff points among the group of 5-4 squads.
"My hat's off to Rolling Meadows. That's one of the best teams in the state," Bison coach Jeff Vik said.
"I'm proud of the effort our guys showed out there. On defense we held them to their lowest or one of their lowest point totals of the season. I believe that we are one of the better 5-4 teams out there and if we able to get a good draw in the brackets, there's nothing we can't accomplish."