Ball bounces Wauconda's way in win over Graylake Central
Two different types of perfect timing put Wauconda senior Brock Pfeiffer on the receiving end of touchdowns in Friday night's Northern Lake County Conference football first-place showdown with visiting Grayslake Central.
The first came with time running out in the first half as Pfeiffer scooped up a fumble after a completed pass and raced into the end zone from 5 yards out. On the second, he was already in the end zone on a precise connection with Logan Olsen that gave the Bulldogs a 16-point lead.
Mix in 2 field goals by Zac Johnson, 160 yards rushing by senior Connor Vanselow and a stingy defense and it added up to a 19-8 victory for Wauconda (4-1, 3-0). It also set up another NLCC battle for first at home next Friday with Antioch (5-0, 3-0), a 50-13 winner over Grayslake North.
"That was a huge motivator," Pfeiffer said of his first touchdown 5.9 seconds before halftime. "It was still a close game and we needed that big time. It gave us more confidence."
It looked as if Johnson's 27-yard field goal in the first quarter would be the only points of the first half as Grayslake Central (2-3, 2-1) stopped a drive at its 5 with 1:34 to go. But Wauconda's Ethan Lindquist had a tackle for loss to force a punt that Johnson returned 25 yards to the 20 to set up one more chance to score 15 seconds before the break.
Olsen (6-for-9, 68 yards) hit junior Kaden Hebert but he was separated from the ball. Pfeiffer, who was running a go route to the end zone, had come back to block.
"Obviously we don't draw it up that way but I'm glad the ball bounced our way that time," Wauconda coach Chris Prostka smiled of the second time his team had scored just before halftime this season.
"I saw the ball pop out, it bounced right to me and I thought I've just got to run this in," Pfeiffer said. "It was such an obscure play."
Not so obscure was Olsen's 7-yard play-action toss to Pfeiffer in the left side of the end zone on third-and-4 for a 16-0 lead with 4:37 left in the third.
Sophomore Nicholas Ori had a diving first-half interception and Conlan Rath and two-way linemen Lindquist, Liam Carney and Caleb Apodaca helped hold the Rams to only 96 yards through three quarters. They had two drives start inside their 5 because of special teams mistakes before finally cutting their deficit in half with 5:36 to play on an 8-yard touchdown run by Romeo Reyes (12 carries, 56 yards) and a conversion pass from Braden Carlson (10-for-22, 84 yards) to Eric Brum.
"A lot of it was self-inflicted," said Central coach Brent Pearlman. "Obviously something I'm doing isn't really translating to us being a better team and I have to take a better look at what I'm doing. Clearly we're not coming out playing good fundamental football."
Wauconda ran off nearly five minutes of the remaining time with Vanselow running for 45 yards on 5 of his 24 carries behind Lindquist, Carney, Apodaca, Eric Alvarado and David Soroka. That set up Johnson's game-sealing field goal from 41 yards with 32.8 seconds to play.
"The drive at the end was huge," Prostka said. "The O-line was opening up holes and Connor is our guy."