Gripper's strong defensive effort propels Conant past Schaumburg
Conant finally put it all together Friday night at Schaumburg on a picture perfect night for football.
The Cougars, who had dropped their first three games of the season, spotted the Saxons an early touchdown and then scored 27 straight points en route to a 27-14 victory in the Mid-Suburban West.
Conant earned the win behind a strong rushing game from senior running back Malik Frederick, and a stellar effort on defense, especially by senior Christian Gripper.
Leading up to the game, Cougars coach Bryan Stortz indicated how much the relentless effort of Gripper has meant to his team.
"Defensively, Christian has been a strong presence for us," he said. "He is a '100 miles an hour'-type of player, and he has to be a consistent playmaker for us at defensive end."
Schaumburg quarterback Luke Jessie, who Saxons coach Mark Stilling had said has "made some nice strides from last year," put his team up 7-0 midway through the first quarter with a 9-yard touchdown pass.
Conant countered on its next possession as Frederick led the Cougars to the Schaumburg 20 on a 60-yard tackle-breaking run.
Frederick scored on a 1-yard plunge to tie the game, and the Cougars tallied again in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Conant took command. First, Frederick ran 47 yards down the left sideline for a score to make it 20-7, and Gripper set the tone for the final two quarters on defense shortly thereafter.
On the next Saxons series, Gripper tackled a Schaumburg carrier in the backfield for a 6-yard loss, then on 3rd down, sacked Jessie 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage, forcing a punt.
Conant scored again in the fourth quarter on a 16-yard burst up the middle by Frederick.
Schaumburg hit the scoreboard again on a touchdown with minutes left in the final quarter, and the Saxons' defense and special teams, of whom Stilling said that "Anthony Hernandez and JJ Calabria have been performing on a consistent level," made things interesting down the stretch.
The Saxons recovered an onside kick late, in addition to a fumble deep in Conant territory, but both possessions thereafter were stopped by Cougars' interceptions -- the last one coming by junior Ryan Kutella at the 3-yard line.
Jessie completed 13 passes for 108 yards for Schaumburg, while Frederick had 176 yards rushing for the Cougars.
Frederick also was a force on special teams for Conant, making two touchdown-saving tackles on kickoffs.