Sayre, Lake Zurich tough out playoff victory over DeKalb
Fortunately for Lake Zurich, Jason Sayre never gave up.
Not on the game of football.
And not on his long run in the final minute of Saturday's Class 7A first-round playoff game in DeKalb.
"I haven't ran that fast in a long time," a smiling Sayre joked after the senior's 63-yard touchdown run with 55 seconds left in the fourth quarter finished off Lake Zurich's 17-0 win over DeKalb.
It's been a long journey for Sayre, a varsity starter at inside linebacker as a sophomore two years ago, who's focused on helping the Bears make another lengthy postseason run. By ousting 10th-seeded DeKalb (8-2), No. 23 Lake Zurich (7-3) moves on to Round 2 and will host No. 7 Chicago Mt. Carmel (9-1) at 1 p.m. next Saturday in a rematch of last year's Class 7A state semifinal.
Sayre made his season debut in the Mt. Carmel game last fall after being sidelined all season due to a torn right hamstring. He has started all this season at linebacker and drew a starting nod at running back, as well, against DeKalb. He responded by rushing for 116 yards on 12 carries, and also had the game's lone interception.
"I've been so happy this entire season just to be able to play," said Sayre, who also played in the Bears' state-title loss to Batavia last year. "I'm just lucky."
Mind you, Lake Zurich coach Luke Mertens said Sayre was "questionable" to play against DeKalb due to injury but "toughed it out" in helping the Bears win their 35th playoff game in this century. Sayre says he has a partially torn right calf muscle, but there was no way he was going to sit out.
Especially after the frustration of last season.
"It was terrible," Sayre said. "I almost wanted to quit because I was just so upset. I wanted to play."
He and his teammates came to DeKalb ready to play, as it took Lake Zurich just 3 plays to strike.
Jack Moses, making his third start in a row at quarterback, hit wide receiver James Piggott for a 49-yard touchdown pass with just 59 seconds gone in the game. Moses rolled to his right, scrambled and rotated his body, then hit fellow junior Piggott, who caught the ball down the right sideline and raced into the end zone.
"I wasn't actually looking for him," Moses said after completing 4 of 9 passes for 89 yards (no interceptions). "But James and I have had a connection for probably eight years, since (Lake Zurich) Flames (youth football). I just pointed to him and threw it up, and he made a good play."
Andrew Stange's 41-yard field goal, after an 11-play drive by Lake Zurich on its second possession stalled, made it 10-0 in the opening quarter.
That was more than enough offense for Lake Zurich's defense, which held DeKalb to just 39 yards and 1 first down in the first half.
The Barbs came out of the locker room after halftime a different team, however. Keeping the ball on the ground and hustling to the line of scrimmage, the hosts marched 57 yards on 16 plays. But on fourth-and-goal from the 4, cornerback Anthony Mangano and safety George Gritsonis helped stop Barbs running back Jalon Redmond at the 1.
"They were trying to run some tempo offense, and we stayed sound," said Gritsonis, who also recovered a first-quarter fumble. "If everyone does their job, we'll come off the field successful. It's just about getting off the field on those money downs."
Lake Zurich didn't play a perfect game, fumbling six times (3 turnovers) and missing a pair of field goals (40 and 35 yards). But a ground-control offense featuring Moses (21 carries, 37 yards), Sayre and Jack Dwyer (21 carries, 117 yards) allowed the Bears to execute their game plan.
Linebacker Bryan Sanborn had the lone sack for a Lake Zurich defense that limited DeKalb to 117 yards in earning the Bears' fourth shutout and third in a row.
"We wanted to come in and be able to control the clock, and keep some of their playmakers off the field," Mertens said. "They have some athletes that can do some things. I thought we did a good job. ... When you're playing well defensively and you're able to run the ball effectively, good things happen."