RB Easter paves the way in Prospect's 24-10 victory over Lyons Township
Prospect junior running back Noah Easter wanted to make a statement on Friday night.
Unfortunately, Easter had to overcome a rough first half before making a big-time late impression.
Throughout the second half, Easter strolled around holding a football tight in his arms while the Knights' defense was on the field. Holding the football "high and tight" in his arms to pound in his head the importance of ball security, Easter showed he's a quick learner against Lyons.
In his first year as a starter, Easter admitted he was bothered by his early play in the season opener against Lyons.
"The first half of the game was little rough for me, but my teammates are the best in the world and they picked me up," Easter said. "I was coming off an injury and wasn't practicing for a while, then I came in and fumbled twice. My teammates, though, kept on saying, 'you got this, you this and we believe in you.' I couldn't ask for anything more from them."
In the second half, Easter showed why he's positioned for a possible breakout season, rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown to spark the Knights to a 24-10 victory over Lyons in Mount Prospect.
Before a large crowd on a warm night, the Knights (1-0) kept up their trend under coach Dan DeBoeuf by putting together a second-half comeback in the opener. The Knights wore down the Lions (0-1) to erase a 10-7 halftime deficit, relying on some big-time defensive plays, several risky offensive decisions that all paid off and benefiting from three costly miscues by the visitors.
"I'm super proud of these guys, and our togetherness and grit really stood out tonight," DeBoeuf said.
At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Easter churned his way for chunks of yards in the second half to help turn a possible defeat into a two-touchdown victory. He capped his second-half explosion with a tackle-breaking 10-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter that was set up by quarterback Jack Skoog's 9-yard run on fourth down at Prospect's 49-yard line.
Even after scoring the TD, Easter made a point to cradle the football on the sidelines, until finally dropping the ball once the final whistle sounded.
"Our offensive line has been working and working throughout the summer and they played great," Easter said. "On that (TD) drive, I was just thinking ball security and ball security. I knew I couldn't fumble the ball again. My offensive line stuck in there and kept pounding. I worked on my lifting, footwork, coaches and getting (down) our game plan to be ready for tonight."
The Lions, who advanced to the Class 8A quarterfinals last season, struggled moving the ball, especially in the second half. Lyons, which had several two-way players, came unglued in the final two quarters due to Prospect's defensive pressure.
And the Knights took advantage of every Lyons miscue in the second half. The Knights gained control of the game by extending their first second-half drive midway through the third quarter on a Skoog 21-yard pass to Griffin Limbers on 4th down and 20. Skoog, a junior, capped the drive with a 3-yard TD on a sneak that caught Lions' defense off-guard, handing the Knights a 17-10 lead with 4:46 left in the quarter.
Tommy Newcomb drilled a 47-yard field goal with 1.9 second left until halftime to give the Lions a 10-7 lead, but the Knights dialed up the defensive pressure to hold the Lions scoreless and just 79 yards of total offense over the final two quarters.
"It was a tough one," Lyons coach Jon Beutjer said. "Our guys were pretty tired but you have to give credit to Prospect. They are a good football team and program. Defensively, they were bringing a ton of pressure. Our kids were tired, and they were getting pressure on our quarterback.
"The long fourth down play, we needed to get off the field on that one. We have a lot of new guys playing that didn't play last year. We're going to look at this film and get better. We have some things we have to clean up, and we will."
The Knights' sterling defensive effort included several key players, most notably Crash Davis. The Knights forced Lyons quarterback Ryan Jackson, who passed for 2,029 yards and a single-season school record 26 touchdowns last season, on his heels with their unrelenting defensive pressure.
"Our coaches had an excellent game plan and we just came in and got the win," Davis said. "We were together and fighting. (Lyons) had several players starting both ways, and we only play one way and we tried to wear them down."