Jacobs, Prairie Ridge matchup lives up to the hype
Friday night's matchup between the last two Fox Valley Conference unbeaten teams lived up to its billing.
Jacobs held off Prairie Ridge 42-35 in a back-and-forth game in which neither team ever led by more than seven points.
It started with a wild first quarter, highlighted by two kickoff return touchdowns by Prairie Ridge's Tyler Vasey after two touchdown drives by Jacobs.
It ended with a thrilling fourth quarter as Prairie Ridge came up with a stop and scored for its first lead, only to have Jacobs strike right back twice and come up with two pivotal defensive stops.
"That was two really good teams," Jacobs coach Brian Zimmerman said. "We preached being disciplined all week. We didn't like the way we came out last week with mental errors. We preached, 'Do your assignment.'
"I felt like we were in a repeat of last year. That stop by Ashton [Niehaus] at the end was unbelievable."
Prairie Ridge had a fourth-and-2 at Jacobs' 14-yard line in the final minute when Niehaus, a defensive back, grabbed running back Luke Vanderwiel for a 2-yard loss to seal the game.
Zimmerman was right about the potential repeat of last year's finish, only in reverse. Jacobs scored in the final minute a season ago and was stopped on a 2-point conversion, giving Prairie Ridge a 49-48 win.
If Prairie Ridge had scored, Wolves coach Chris Schremp said he absolutely would have gone for two and the win.
Prairie Ridge (3-1, 3-1 FVC) will need some help to win or share the conference championship, but Vasey felt that game will help the Wolves later.
"We all discussed this is what playoff football is going to be like," he said. "If we want to win in the playoffs, you're going to have to face teams like this. It [stinks] to lose, but we're going to learn a lot from it. It's going to make our team better."
Vasey is an electrifying runner in the mold of former Wolves players Samson Evans and Taidhgin Trost. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Vasey ran back Jacobs' first two kickoffs Friday for 85- and 89-yard touchdowns. He also scored on runs of 31 and 36 yards, while running 21 times for 213 yards. He leads the area with 935 yards rushing and has 11 rushing touchdowns.
"Tyler is one of the fastest athletes I've ever played against," Niehaus said. "He's spectacular. It's a different type of player on the field. The whole team has to come together, and that's the only way we're going to stop him."
Vasey played only half of last season after recovering from an elbow injury suffered just before the opener. He still ran for 745 yards and nine touchdowns as a running back, providing another threat for the Wolves with his tremendous speed.
"He's unbelievable," Schremp said. "He's dynamic, no doubt about it."
Jacobs (4-0, 4-0 FVC) now leads Prairie Ridge, Huntley, Crystal Lake South and Cary-Grove (all at 3-1) with five conference games remaining. The Golden Eagles are trying to win their first title since taking the FVC Valley Division in 2013.
Tight end Grant Stec is not looking nearly that far down the road.
"Huntley better watch out," Stec said of this week's foe. "We're coming after them. We're going to keep it rolling. We have an amazing group. We had an amazing brotherhood last year. We brought in new guys, and that brotherhood is starting to come back to life."