Mann, what a night for Vernon Hills
As in Ryan Mann, the Vernon Hills junior running back who rushed for 3 touchdowns -- all in the first half -- in the Cougars' 43-0 defeat of visiting Grayslake Central in a football season opener Friday night.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder finished with 15 carries for a game-high 130 yards. His scoring trips covered 9, 3 and 8 yards, as the hosts skipped to a 28-0 lead at the half.
"We worked really well together, and so many of our guys have improved since last year," Mann said. "What we're able to do on offense … options, so many options."
VH senior quarterback Thomas Monken, a transfer from Libertyville, opted to chuck a 30-yard TD pass to sophomore dart Jake Pieper after Mann's first two TDs. Monken completed 16 of 25 passes for 227 yards, and Pieper need only 3 snares to rack up 93 receiving yards.
Vernon Hills' defense, particularly its interior linemen, limited the Rams' feature back, sophomore Maurice Edwards, to 2 yards on 12 totes.
The visitors gained only 89 total yards, with 58 coming via the air.
Cougars linemates Vito Accettura, Bradley Gothelf and David Mun might as well have planted mailboxes in GC's backfield.
They practically lived there, after all.
"Full team effort -- that's what that game was," said Cougars coach Bill Bellecomo, whose club topped GC in an opener for the fifth year in a row. "We played well in all three phases, something we'd been preaching to the guys for a while. Ryan Mann is just a football player, an old-school kid who runs downhill, runs hard. And our defensive linemen are strong kids with high motors.
"They give us fits in practice."
VH junior wideout/linebacker Justin Morris proved to be a handful for the foes, collecting 6 passes for 79 yards and coming down with a toss from Monken for a 2-point conversion after Mann's final tally. He also picked off a pass in the second half.
Nothing went wrong for the hosts, but it appeared something would on consecutive plays at the end of their first possession in the second half. Monken, taking the snap from the Rams' 4-yard line, turned to execute a hand off, paused and then chose to keep the football and run for a TD at 9:57 of the third quarter.
On the ensuing extra-point attempt, holder Pieper secured a ground ball and alertly raced to the east side of the end zone for a 2-pointer.
Reserve senior running back Daniel Shin completed the scoring with a 20-yard TD run that made it 42-0 at 4:03 of the third frame, triggering a running clock.
"That's a good football team, with a fine staff," first-year Grayslake Central coach Mike Maloney said. "Their players executed better than our players did. The spotlight got a little too bright for some of our kids; several played meaningful football for the first time tonight."
Rams senior Grant Spicer caught 3 passes from sophomore quarterback Darryl Overstreet (8-for-20, 50 yards) for 26 yards.
GL\C junior punter Andy Rubio booted a 56-yard punt to the Cougars' 2-yard line in the second quarter.