Wauconda, Vernon Hills enjoy productive Friday nights
It was a frantic Friday for several Wauconda football players.
Colin Husko, a starting running back and defensive back for the Bulldogs, as well as starting offensive lineman Riley Kirk and reserves Kellan Botha, Brett Kazimour and Chase Groelle were literally baseball players by day, and football players by night.
"I could see them being dropped off by their parents as the national anthem for our game was being played," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "They were literally changing their uniform and getting ready as we were about to kick off."
The five Bulldogs are in the midst of football season, and hurried to Friday's Week 5 game at Round Lake in their baseball uniforms. They are also baseball players, and the Wauconda baseball team hosted Grant on Friday afternoon.
The five started their after-school activities at the baseball game. In fact, Husko even took the mound in relief to help the Bulldogs close out a 4-3 win over Grant.
They hustled from their home baseball field at Wauconda and made the football game at Round Lake just in time. They then helped the Bulldogs to another win, this time it was a 45-14 victory on the football field.
Husko, fresh off his mound appearance, wound up being Wauconda's leading rusher on the night, rolling up 77 yards on 10 carries.
"Those kids played in two varsity games in two different sports on the same day," Mills said. "That doesn't happen much. Luckily, Round Lake was having its Senior Night, so they were running a few minutes behind at the start.
"It's just another thing that you can smile about in terms of the uniqueness of the year. It's something these kids will be talking about years from now. 'Hey, remember that time we played two varsity games in the same day?' These kids are definitely getting a lot of sports in right now."
Mills said that all the coaches at Wauconda are working together to make sure their athletes can get to as many of their athletic obligations as possible.
"Last week, we held a couple of late-night practices so that our baseball kids could get to their baseball practices in the afternoon," Mills said. "It's a lot, but some of our kids do a lot of club and travel so they are kind of used to it."
Two more points.
That's what Wauconda needed in Week 4 to be able to beat defending conference champion Antioch.
The Bulldogs, with another big win (45-14 over Round Lake) this week, are 4-1 and in a tie for second place in the Northern Lake County Conference behind the 5-0 Sequoits, who are in position to close out their sixth-straight Northern Lake County Conference championship next week.
"We think a lot about if we had just gotten two more points in that game," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "Our team is playing so well, and next week, the season is just going to end. We sure would have liked to have had an opportunity to go to the playoffs with this team and see what we could have done.
"We would be very happy to be 5-1 at the end of the season. It's better than nothing and at least we got a season, but it's also a season of a lot of what-ifs. We have a really good team full of talent and potential, one of our best. Between our sophomores and juniors and seniors, we have a really nice mix and it would have been nice to have a full season and playoffs. In the overall scope of everything that's going on, it's a small thing, but you do think about things like that."
Rushing, receiving, intercepting ... Javerius McGuinn had it all covered Friday night.
The Wauconda receiver and defensive back was all over the field in the Bulldogs' 45-14 win over Round Lake.
McGuinn scored Wauconda's first 3 touchdowns, all by catching the ball.
He hauled in 2 touchdown passes from quarterback Nick Bulgarelli, for 66 and 37 yards. Then, he caught a pass from the Round Lake quarterback while on defense and turned that into a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown.
His efforts helped Wauconda go up 31-14 at halftime.
Then in the second half, McGuinn scored his fourth touchdown on a 4-yard run.
"He had a great game," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said of McGuinn, who will be playing at Division II Missouri Western next year. "He was everywhere and was just outstanding."
McGuinn finished with 146 receiving yards on 6 catches.
Bulgarelli, completing passes at a 70 percent rate on the season, was his usual efficient self. He was 9-of-14 for 204 passing yards.
"We had 385 yards of offense and we were 204 in the air and 181 on the ground," Mills said. "We like to have a balanced set like that. When we are balanced like that, it is really tough for the defense to take things away."
It didn't take much for Vernon Hills to run up 63 points on Friday in a 63-6 win over Maine East.
"I think we ran a total of 15 plays on offense for the entire game," Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo said. "We scored on our first play and then got a defensive score and it kind of went from there."
The Cougars, now 4-0 on the season, were up 49-6 at halftime and had a running clock for the entire second half. Their reserves played the second half.
Ryan Mann, who will be a preferred walk-on at Northern Illinois next year and already has 675 yards and 7 touchdowns in just four games, scored on long touchdown runs of 56 and 47 yards.
Erik Rimas and Jake Pieper also had 2 touchdowns apiece.
Rimas caught a 9-yard touchdown and also returned a fumble 24 yards for a touchdown. Pieper rushed for 2 touchdowns.
Justin Morris, Ben Halley and Jackson Wiegold also scored touchdowns for the Cougars.
"We had really good field position all night," Bellecomo said. "That really helped."
Good and bad:
COVID has been a blessing and a curse for Vernon Hills running back Ryan Mann.
He broke his leg (femur) in Week 5 in 2019 and was out for the rest of the season. At the time, he was getting serious looks from various colleges.
The delay in the 2020/2021 season to spring helped Mann recover from his injury, and it also gave him extra time in the weight room. He put on 25 pounds of sheer muscle since last year.
"Ryan has really been able to work on his speed and getting back (from the injury)," Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo said. "He's also gotten so much bigger and stronger. He's breaking a lot of tackles this year." The downside has been that a lot of the schools that were showing interest in Mann before his injury weren't able to see the progress of his recovery in the fall when they were looking to solidify their 2021 recruiting class. Unlike other states, Illinois high school football was shut down.
"I think a lot of kids (in Illinois) are in the same position since our season kept getting delayed," Bellecomo said. "That hurt Ryan's recruiting. He's going to be a preferred walk-on at NIU, but I think he could have been a scholarship kid somewhere and I think he eventually will earn a scholarship at NIU."
In four games, the Vernon Hills defense has let up just 30 points, 24 points by the starters.
It's not a surprise, considering the lineup at linebacker for the Cougars, who allowed just 6 points on Friday against Maine East.
Vernon Hills boasts four Division I players at that linebacker spot in seniors Ryan Mann (NIU), Jackson Weigold (Ball State) and Justin Morris (Ball State) and junior Erik Rimas (offer to Eastern Illinois).
"Those guys are just so solid, and they are so big," Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo said of his four linebackers. "I don't think we've ever had four Division I guys at linebacker on the same team and I don't think we've had four guys that big on the same team."
Rimas is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Morris is 6-4, 220, Weigold is 6-2, 230 and Mann is 6-foot, 225.
"We hit the jackpot with those guys all coming up together," Bellecomo said. "We saw them coming up at a young age and we knew that they were going to be good."
Something to play for:
There may be no state playoffs, but Vernon Hills could come away from this spring season with some bragging rights.
If the Cougars finish out 5-0 with a win over Niles North next week, they will win the Central Suburban League North Division.
"It would be our first-ever CSL title," Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo said. "The kids would have liked to have had the playoffs to see what we could have done, but we will take this. They are pretty motivated to get that first (CSL) championship."