Speedy recovery has Lake Zurich's Welcing back in action
It's been a long time coming for Hunter Welcing.
And a rather short time, too.
Welcing, a standout tight end for Lake Zurich who will be playing at Northwestern next year, had sat out the entire 2019 season until his number was called last week for a few plays against Mundelein.
Unfortunately, an ACL knee injury last spring during an offseason workout kept Welcing on the sideline for every game before that.
But for Welcing, what probably seemed like an eternity of watching and not playing week after week, is really a remarkable comeback story. Welcing, who even scored a touchdown against Mundelein, needed essentially just seven months to make a full recovery from a serious knee injury.
"Some people do recover well, and Hunter has been one of those people," Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. "His surgery was a success and he just attacked his rehab. In practice last week after he was cleared, you would look at him running around and it didn't even look like he had ever been hurt. There's no hitch in his get-up, he cuts off both legs, he jumps, you can't notice anything."
Planz put Welcing on a strict play count last week, wanting to ease the tight end back into action.
"We didn't want to play him more than 15 plays, and we ended up playing him about nine or 10," Planz said. "And he ends up catching a touchdown pass. It was so awesome for him. Sometimes, these injuries can be as much of a mental recovery as a physical recovery and I know it must have felt so great for him to get in there and then to get a touchdown on top of it. He was excited. All of his teammates were excited. It was a cool sight to see."
Moskal the man: While tight end Hunter Welcing completed the rehab of his injured knee over the first seven weeks of the season, it was a next-man-up mentality for Lake Zurich at tight end and Logan Moskal seized the opportunity.
"He has really stepped up, started since Week 1 and has done a great job with it," Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said of Moskal. "Tight end is such an important position in our offense and Logan has done a very good job of understanding what we need him to do. We use him in both the run and the pass and we have hit him with some passes, but he has really shined with his blocking in the run game.
"The run game has become a strength for us and that means we don't have to rely on the pass as much. We can throw as we need to."
Resting for now: The Lake Zurich rushing game took a hit two weeks ago in a 24-3 loss to Warren.
Top running back Jack Dwyer, who has rushed for nearly 650 yards in seven games, suffered a leg injury in the game and sat out last week's win over Mundelein to heal. He will also miss the regular season finale Friday night against Waukegan as an added precaution.
"Jack is week-to-week but he doesn't have any pain," Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. "We're going to give him one more week off and then we hope to have him back for the playoffs. He's a big part of what we do. His emergence this year in the run game has really been important to our offense."
Up front and center: After a rough season as a unit last year, the Lake Zurich offensive line has made great strides this season.
"The offensive line was a real question mark going into the season," Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. "How good they would be was really going to determine how good we would be and they have done very well this year."
Planz says that Spencer Bacon has been the leader of the offensive line this year.
"He dropped a lot of weight since last year and he's moving really well," Planz said of Bacon. "He's done a great job and so have Luke Mathis and Josh Pollard who are both playing really well. Michael Andrews has made a lot of progress since last year and Bennett Haidu, the lone junior of the group, is coming along well. We've have the same starting five offensive linemen this year in every game and I think that's made a big difference."
College to preps: Before taking over the head coaching job at Lake Zurich, Ron Planz had spent nearly two decades coaching college football.
He was previously the head coach for the last five years at Elmhurst College and also had stops at Minnesota-Mankato, Manchester University and Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
With two children under age 9, Planz was looking for some stability and decided coaching at the high school level could provide that. He also teaches physical education at Lake Zurich.
"It's pretty similar between high school and college, at least from a football standpoint," Planz said. "I don't coach my kids now any different than I coached the college kids. I definitely went in not knowing what to expect but after our first game, I quickly understood what was the right way to prepare them. I got a lot of perspective right away on which path to take to coach this team well."