Lake Zurich's defense shuts down Hansen, Hersey
Something had to give.
Would it be the stingy defense of Lake Zurich or the explosive offense of Hersey?
Hersey entered Saturday's Class 7A second round playoff game at Lake Zurich averaging an eye-popping 48 points per game, one of the highest scoring averages in the suburbs.
Meanwhile, Lake Zurich had allowed a total of just 14 points in the previous three games and 13.5 points per game on the season.
Both the Hersey offense and the Lake Zurich defense have been tough to beat this season.
But this time, in the head-to-head battle, stingy won.
Lake Zurich put a hammer down on Hersey early and often and kept the visiting Huskies off the scoreboard until there were just four minutes remaining in the game.
But by then, it was too little too late and Lake Zurich hung on for a 14-7 victory.
"It was very surreal being out there and seeing that we were just shutting that offense down, knowing how good they are," said Lake Zurich linebacker Bryan Sanborn, who leads his team in tackles and had a huge quarterback sack in the second half.
"All week, our coaches emphasized how good this (Hersey) offense is. But we understood, as a collective unit, as a defense, how good we are. And we knew that if we kept playing our game against them, we were going to shut them down every time up and down the field. As a unit, we are just physical. Every time, we are going to be more physical than the opposing offense. Every time they come on the field, the opposing offense knows they are going to get hit and we are going to wear them down play after play."
The 20th-seeded Bears, who improved to 8-3, advance to next week's quarterfinal and will host No. 5 Williowbrook (10-1).
No. 4 Hersey closed out one of its most successful seasons in school history with a 9-2 record.
By halftime, Lake Zurich had scored its 2 touchdowns on runs (75 and 19 yards) by quarterback Jack Moses to take a 14-0 lead into the locker room.
At that point, Hersey had mustered just 4 first downs and 83 total yards of offense.
"It's the playoffs, and in the playoffs you have to have a good defense," Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. "The regular season is for the offense to put on a show. And the playoffs is when the defense has to show up and play and the offense has to do just enough not to put the defense in bad spots.
"I really wish our offense could have gotten some points out of the two (promising) drives we had in the second half, but our defense responded and (the two touchdowns) were enough."
What Hersey didn't get enough of was time.
The Lake Zurich offense, which rolled up 349 yards (221 rushing yards and 128 passing yards), dominated time of possession with methodical movement of the chains.
That kept the Hersey offense on the sideline. For the entire first half, the Huskies had the ball for a total of just seven of the 24 minutes.
Overall, time of possession for Hersey was 19 (of 48) minutes. And the Huskies had just 172 total yards.
"It was really frustrating," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said of his team's limited time with the ball. "I figured that's what a team is going to have to do against us is control it, and Lake Zurich really did that."
And Lake Zurich's control of the ball essentially neutralized Hersey star quarterback Jordan Hansen, who did score a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but was handcuffed early and held to just 21 rushing yards and 60 passing yards by halftime.
Hansen, who will be playing at Northern Illinois next year, had been setting school records all season for yardage and touchdowns. Last week in the first round of the playoffs, Hansen had a hand in all seven of Hersey's touchdowns.
For the game, Hansen finished with 72 rushing yards and 90 passing yards. He scored on a 4-yard run with 3:57 remaining.
"We just made sure we kept him in the pocket, because we knew how good he is with his legs," Sanborn said of Hansen. "We knew that if we forced him to beat us by throwing, we had a shot to win this game.
"This was hands down one of our best (defensive efforts) of the season. We are clicking right now. It gives us a lot of confidence moving forward. To hold a team like this to 7 points is just a tremendous effort by us."