Rolling Meadows gets in rhythm to knock off Vernon Hills
Rolling Meadows senior lineman Dom Fallico said the Mustangs offensive line took a step forward on Friday night.
"We were able to push the pile," he said. "Toward the end of the game, we were making holes for Skip (Rozanski who rushed for 100 yards) and Devin (Owen) and they were really capitalized "
Rozanski and Owen's combined 167 rushing yards parlayed with Evan Grace's 257 yards passing (17 of 30) proved to be a perfect balance for the hosts to post a 26-14 nonconference football triumph over Vernon Hills.
"I thought it was a nice mix," said Mustangs coach Sam Baker. "I thought it worked out well."
Behind the work of linemen Harvey Goodwin, Fallico, Jack Stollfus, Joey Maloney, Peyton Wiles and George Barnett, the Mustangs drove from their own 22 to the Cougars 11-yard line, where junior Gabe Cherwin booted a 28-yard field goal to make it 3-0 with 1:59 left in the first quarter.
After the hosts' defense then forced a three and out, the offense came back with a 60-yard TD drive, capped by Grace's 11-yard pass to Anthony Sansonetti for a 10-0 lead with 9:33 left in the first half.
The Meadows defense came right back with another three and out, including Connor Brooks' tackle for a loss on second down.
Starting from its own 37, Meadows once again drove to the Cougars' 11-yard-line, and Cherwin booted his second 28-yard field goal for a 13-0 cushion with 4:39 left in the half.
The Mustangs put together a final scoring drive in the half when they marched 76 yards, capped by Grace's 9-yard pass to Ben Petermann (6 catches, 100 yards) with 28 seconds left. Grace threw passes of 24 yards to Stephen Schiele and 28 yards up the middle to Ryan Chaney to highlight the scoring drive.
After the blocked extra point, Meadows led 19-0 at intermission.
"I felt we could have put the game away before half," Baker added. "Not a knock at Vernon Hills, but I just felt we were executing real well, our defense was playing real well and our kickoff team did a real good job from last week to this week."
But the Cougars recovered onside kicks twice to start the second half to secure some momentum.
DJ Head (5 catches, 84 yards) recovered the first one and the Cougars (0-3) proceeded to put together a 43-yard drive that ended with QB Nolan Lazor's 6-yard TD pass to Anthony Martorano to make it 19-6 after the 2-point conversion failed.
Jack Prista recovered the second onside kick, but the Mustangs' defense forced a punt in six plays.
Later in the quarter, Lazor (14 for-26 with 196 yards) marched the Cougars 80 yards, capped by another 6-yard TD pass to Martorano (6 catches for 81 yards) to make it 19-14 with 10 minutes left in the game.
But Meadows answered with its own 80-yard drive that ended with Grace's 30-yard pitch up the middle to Justin Puetz to make it 26-14 with 5:04 left.
Meadows (2-1) got the right on Matt McHugh's interception at the Cougars' 44-yard line and was able to run out the clock, taking a knee in the final minute at the Cougars' 5 yard line.
"In the first half we didn't make the plays we needed to," said VH coach Bill Bellecomo. "In the second half we really battled and won that half. With a young team and inexperience, I'm really hoping that the second half catapults us. We've still got the division ahead of us and the opportunity to make the playoffs. I like the fight in us and I'm hoping this is the turning point, We've just got to keep getting better. It's a long season and I like the steps we took in the second half."
"We made the game closer than we needed to," Baker said. "I was frustrated by the mental mistakes. There were some drops and other things. We need to get that cleaned up in order to beat Glenbrook North next week."