Defense helps deliver 'old-school' win for Lake Zurich
Bryan Sanborn delivered the game-clinching defensive play and, with it, provided what has become the norm in late autumn in Lake Zurich.
Playoff football at home in November.
"Ever since I was a little kid growing up, I wanted to be a Lake Zurich football player," Sanborn, the junior linebacker, said after his 15-yard sack on third down from the Andrew 33 in the final minute all but sealed the visiting Bears' 14-7 win in Tinley Park in a Class 7A playoff opener Saturday night. "Having the chance to go play on Saturdays in the playoffs, it's every (Lake Zurich) kid's dream. It's different here. The community supports us day in and day out, and this is for them."
By holding off No. 13 Andrew (7-3), No. 20 Lake Zurich (7-3) has won at least one playoff game in a season for the 12th time since 2002. The Bears will host No. 4 Hersey (9-1) at 1 p.m. next Saturday for the second-round matchup.
Lake Zurich held Andrew's triple-option attack to 155 yards of offense, with 87 yards coming thanks to three passing plays (1 tipped pass) on one fourth-quarter scoring drive after the visitors had gone up 14-0.
Jack Moses' 4-yard touchdown pass to the deep corner of the end zone to tight end Hunter Welcing made it a two-score game with 7:58 left in the fourth, but Andrew answered immediately. The Thunderbolts went 86 yards on just 6 plays, with the final two being back-to-back, 26-yard receptions from quarterback Trevor Griffin to wide receiver Johnathan Ugo. Ugo's second catch just eluded leaping Lake Zurich defensive back Anthony Mangano.
"This was like a typical, old-school, Lake Zurich football win," Moses said. "You got to give all the credit to our defense. They shut (Andrew) down the entire game except for that one drive, which was a fluke. I've never seen our defense play that well."
Andrew was just as impressive defensively, limiting Moses to 46 rushing yards on 17 carries and running back Tommy Vages to 44 rushing yards on 20 attempts. The Bears played their third game in a row without running back Jack Dwyer (lower-leg injury), who was on crutches during the game.
"Both offenses were physical," Sanborn said. "We knew coming in our defense had to be more physical."
Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz wasn't surprised. When he was the head coach at Elmhurst College, he recruited some players off Andrew's team that went 1-8 under then-first-year coach Adam Lewandowski in 2016. The Thunderbolts followed up with back-to-back 6-win seasons under Lewandowski.
"You knew from those kids we had gotten, even with just one year under Coach Lewandowski, that this program was going to be great," Planz said. "I told him before the game, 'Lew, you are in the coach of the year in this state.' His players showed why. Those guys play hard, fast and physical. They loaded the box on us and we couldn't get much movement. I thought No. 14 (Joe DeHaan), their safety, was an unbelievable player. He was making all the tackles in the run game."
Lake Zurich scored the only touchdown of the first half, when Moses (6-of-12 passing 80 yards) and wide receiver James Piggott hooked up on a 33-yard reception late in the first quarter.
Piggott made a one-handed catch, before veering into the corner of the end zone.
"He's always working on that in practice," Moses said with a smile. "It ended up paying off."
In the end, Lake Zurich relied on its defense, which got an interception early in the fourth quarter from Jacob Breeman.
"It was two great defenses today just battling it out," Planz said. "That's playoff football, though, right? Offenses do all the stuff during the regular season. Defense has got to carry it home."