Prospect, Buffalo Grove excited for another epic battle
Playoffs can bring great matchups and lifetime memories.
Prospect and Buffalo Grove will be ready for theirs Saturday when the Mid-Suburban East co-champions collide at 7 p.m. at BG's Grant Blaney Stadium in a second round game of the Class 7A football playoffs.
Prospect won the meeting between the teams in Week 5 of this season in a hard-fought 17-14 victory. The Knights have won the last three games against BG.
The teams have met four times in the state playoffs. Buffalo Grove won the first meeting in 1984, but Prospect has won the last three, winning in consecutive years from 2001 to 2003.
The 2002 game was the most memorable. It was a quarterfinal game at Buffalo Grove before the largest crowd ever at BG. Prospect won the game 17-16 when the Knights forced a fumble from legendary Bison quarterback Tommy Zbikowski at the Prospect 1-yard line with less than a minute to play.
Current Prospect coach Dan DeBeouf and current Buffalo Grove coach Jeff Vlk remember Zbikowski and the game.
DeBeouf was a freshman football player at Lemont. He had attended football camps at Wheaton College and Zbikowski was there, winning all the running events.
Vlk was playing college football at Valparaiso. His team was on a bye week and Vlk got an invitation to attend the game from former Prospect player and friend Adam Oaes and was rooting for the Knights.
But the game this Saturday has created its own buzz and, if that's possible, even a larger crowd.
"I was at the store and a woman came up to me and said she has had heard how well we are doing and wished us well," Vlk said. "I have heard from alumni and former players and people I don't even know. They all want to be back."
Prospect, which is known for its large traveling student section, should also be well represented. DeBeouf said that the Prospect community is energized for the game.
"When we played at Hersey earlier er this year, I think it was the biggest crowd I ever coached in front of," DeBeouf said. "I know a lot of people in our community are excited. I am sure it will be a packed house and great atmosphere."
Buffalo Grove has been a run-first team up until last week against Lincoln-Way West, when the Bison leaned hard on quarterback Michael Cervantes.
Buffalo Grove trailed 19-7 and its run game, which has rushed for 2,652 yards this season, found itself stymied. Cervantes then delivered the goods, throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Blake Juckett, who made his first catch of the season, and Scott Murray to push the Bison over the top.
"I think that Prospect game earlier in the year was the best thing for us," Vlk said. "Losing that game opened up a lot of different things we can on both sides of the ball. It also allowed us to really look at what we could do differently. It was definitely a turning point for our team."
With that, Buffalo Grove has rallied in its last two games to come from behind and post victories. But Vlk said that type of play can be a recipe for elimination.
"We need to get off to a better start and play four quarters of football against Prospect," Vlk said. "We can't always count on coming back. But it does show that there is no quit in our kids."
Cervantes leads the Bison with 1,080 yards rushing and 534 yards passing with 154 of that coming last Saturday. Murray has rushed for 755 yards, Cole Nixon has 452 and Jacob Pond has 204 yards.
Prospect is hoping to have quarterback Frank Covey back after the junior sprained his ankle in Week 9 against Rolling Meadows. Covey has thrown for 1,208 yards with 15 touchdown passes and has rushed for 700 yards and 12 touchdowns.
If Covey can't go, then Brad Vierneisel will start again. In his two games that he has appeared at quarterback, he has thrown for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also has 2 rushing touchdowns.
"The Knights are still going" DeBeouf said. "I was happy the way we played last Friday. We are super-excited for the challenge of a really good Buffalo Grove team."
Vierneisel has been a key cog on the receiving end for the Knights along wit Owen Walter and Jake Parisi. Matt Raitano and Gavin Flanagan have bee sharing the carries at running back.
It could come all down to defense, which it did in the teams' first matchup this season.
Prospect, which has allowed just 144 points this season, is led defensively by Ben Sahakian, Gino Paredes and Peyton Burgh.
Buffalo Grove, which has surrendered 140 points, is led by Trystan Anderson, Eli Shereshovech, Pond and Brian Oberman.
Class 7A Playoffs
No. 11 Prospect (8-2) at No. 6 Buffalo Grove (9-1) When: Saturday, 7 p.m. at Grant Blaney Stadium Last Week: Prospect beat Shepard 35-7; Buffalo Grove beat Lincoln-Way West 22-19 Last meeting: Week 5: Prospect 17, Buffalo Grove 14 Advancement: Winner travels to the winner of No. 3 Normal at No. 19 Jacobs