Mann, tough break for Vernon Hills

  • Vernon Hills' Ryan Mann runs the ball against Waukegan earlier this season.

      Vernon Hills' Ryan Mann runs the ball against Waukegan earlier this season. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/10/2019 8:09 PM

It's been a rough go for Vernon Hills with the loss of star do-it-all player Ryan Mann.

The junior running back, who also plays wide receiver and linebacker, is out for the season with a broken femur suffered in the Cougars' Week-5 win over Niles North. Mann finishes the season with 573 rushing yards (6.8 per carry), 16 receptions and 11 TDs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He had to have surgery to place it," Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo said. "I thought he had a shot at being the leading scorer at the end of the year in Lake County and at least in discussion for player of the year. He is devastated."

Mann's loss leaves a huge hole for the Cougars, who are 4-2 and have three games left to get two more wins to automatically qualify for the playoffs with six wins.

Special plays: Wauconda got some big-time plays out of its special teams unit in last week's 14-13 win over North Chicago.

Senior linebacker Colin Westfall was in on both plays.

Westfall teamed up with Kellen Calby to block a North Chicago point-after attempt, which wound up being the difference in the game.

Later, near the end of the game, Westfall, the snapper for punts, sprinted downfield to stop a Wauconda punt from rolling into the end zone for a touchback. He downed the ball at the North Chicago 1-yard line.

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With 99 yards to go and time running out, North Chicago was unable to put together a winning drive and the Bulldogs held on for the win, their first since Week 3.

"Colin is a really nice athlete," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "We had some really good special teams plays in that game and it was nice that our defense had a solid game."

Winning out: Wauconda is used to having its back against the wall.

Last season, the Bulldogs had to win their final two games in order to have a chance to qualify for the playoffs on points with five wins.

This season, at 2-4 through six weeks, they must win their final three games to do the same thing.

"We've been here before," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "Our 12 seniors who got to the playoffs last year really want to get back there. It's a great thing to be in the playoffs in the state of Illinois. But we're going to be playing a team this week that is in the same position."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Grayslake North, Wauconda's Week 7 opponent, is also 2-4.

The Knights won 5 games last year but did not have enough points to qualify for the playoffs.

"I'm sure (Grayslake North head coach) Sam Baker is going to be giving his kids the same speech I am. They need to win out, too. It's a tough position to be in, but at least there is a chance to still get yourself into the playoffs."

Go, go, go: At the heart of the Antioch defense is linebacker Ryan Shaputis, who leads the team in tackles and makes the Sequoits go.

Meanwhile, Shaputis, who gets double-digit tackles every game, has a motor that just goes and goes.

"He is in unbelievable shape," Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said. "If I ever had to discipline this kid at practice, I wouldn't make him run because he could run and run forever and it's no big deal. It would do nothing. I joke with him that instead of a sprint for discipline, I'd have to make him read a book or something.

"Ryan has incredible speed. He ran a sub-4.5 this summer. And he's just in such great shape. Phenomenal shape. He was also on our record 4X100 relay team in track. He's a great athlete."

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