Lake Zurich starts fast at Stevenson, keeps playoff hopes alive
The quarterback read option is a common play at all levels of football these days, but when Lake Zurich's Jarred Meyers pulled the ball away from running back Ben Cooper and headed to his right, it felt like all 11 sets of eyes on defense were looking the other way.
Meyers saw the open space, hit the gas and cruised to a 53-yard touchdown run that gave the Bears an 14-0 lead late in the first quarter at Stevenson on Friday.
"They bit hard on that one," Meyers said. "I saw the corners, linebackers flowing. I just pulled it, hit the edge. I got as great block by Aleks Popovic and I was just gone. There was no one left."
The fast start allowed Lake Zurich to stay in the driver's seat for a 21-9 victory in the North Suburban Conference, and also keep its playoff hopes alive. A win next week over Waukegan would give the Bears a 5-4 record and a decent chance to get an at-large berth.
"I just told the guys we have one more win to go, it's great to be in that position," LZ coach Ron Planz said. "It would be a lot harder after all the work these guys put in to sit here and say, 'We've got one more game and that's it, turn in your equipment.' At least this way we have a chance."
Trailing 14-0 at halftime, Stevenson's offense showed some life behind Jordan Skolmar. He carried the ball twice in the first half, but on his third touch of the third quarter, he broke through the line and showed some nice speed for a 48-yard TD, getting the Patriots back within striking distance.
The Bears had a trick ready on their next drive when junior Tyler Erkman took a handoff on a jet sweep, pulled up and threw it downfield to a wide open Leo Dlatt, who was finally chased down at the 6 after a 64-yard gain. Meyers ran it in two plays later from 4 yards to build the lead back to 21-7 with 5:21 left in the third.
"We hadn't run that this year," Planz said. "We wanted to see how aggressive they were going to be to that jet sweep stuff. If the corner comes down we were going to throw it."
On their next two drives, the Patriots ran 13 plays before stalling, then drove to LZ's 9-yard line when the drive ended with a fourth-down incompletion. After running some clock, Meyers took an intentional safety with 5:06 on the clock.
This was not only a rivalry game, but essentially a playoff elimination game, with both teams sitting at 3-4. Stevenson (3-5, 3-3) finishes at home next Friday against Libertyville.
"This is always the biggest game for us, always means the most," Meyers said.
Lake Zurich opened the contest with an 83-yard drive sparked by 3 completions to Erkman. He took a short pass for 11 yards on the Bears' first offensive play, then got wide open for a 42-yard completion and finally caught a 5-yard touchdown on a rollout and crossing pattern.
Stevenson's most effective offensive play in the first half was the jet sweep to Jimmy Davis. He gained 37 yards on 5 carries in the first half, was shaken up on the second half kickoff, but did return to the game. Cooper, Lake Zurich's top running back, left the game in the third quarter.
The Patriots delivered a couple of defensive highlights in the second quarter, including an interception by Ryan Hynes and a tackle for loss from linebacker Tamer Dalloul that forced a punt.
"We played well for a good part of the game, gave up a couple big plays and against a good team, you can't do that," Stevenson coach Brent Becker said.
Meyers finished with 93 yards on 13 carries. Erkman had 4 catches for 71 yards. Stevenson's Chase Parnes hauled in 6 catches for 87 yards.