GLEN ELLYN -- Lake Zurich was able to contain a Glenbard West offense that scored fewer than 21 points only once this year, clawing and scratching its way to a gritty 10-3 upset win on Saturday.
The Bears, who were in the Class 7A state finals just a year ago, pulled it off despite being outsized in the trenches. Dealing with Penn State recuit Tommy Schutt (6-3, 290 pounds) is a tall task for any offensive line. But the Bears held their own on the play that mattered the most: a 15-yard run by running back Mike Shield for the only touchdown of the game.
When asked about the size differential, receiver John Orlando pointed to his chest.
“We got the heart,” Orlando said. “We like being the underdog and coming out there and showing everyone what we can do.”
The Bears defense was also able to limit the Hilltoppers’ mobile quarterback Justice Odom to only a few big plays. Odom finished 9-for-20 passing for 113 yards but Lake Zurich’s defensive backs did a nice job of not letting anyone get behind them for a big play. Odom also had 15 carries for 84 yards.
When the Hilltoppers look back at the footage, they will be kicking themselves over all the mental mistakes they made. They had seven costly penalties, two of those coming on third-and-short, making things more difficult on an offense that had trouble finding its rhythm all game long.
But no penalty was more costly than the personal foul after an Orlando punt return that placed the ball at the Hilltoppers 15-yard line. The Bears scored on the ensuing play, giving them a 7-0 lead with four seconds left in the first quarter.
The only drive on which the Hilltoppers moved the ball consistently was in the second quarter when they drove 61 yards on nine plays for a 30-yard field goal with 2:32 left in the half.
Yet the Hilltoppers gave up another big play on the Bears’ next possession. A 66-yard run by Orlando put the Bears within field goal range with time ticking down in the half.
“Everyone made their blocks and the lane was just wide open. I just kept going but I got caught from behind, sadly,” Orlando said.
The Bears capitalized and went into halftime up 10-3.
The key story of the second half was the punting game by the Bears. With the offense only being able to muster up two first downs, both of which came on the final drive of the game, the Bears had to punt often and senior Mark Weber stepped up and delivered booming punt after punt, consistently pinning the Hilltoppers deep in their own territory.
“Our punting game was outstanding in helping us with the field position,” Lake Zurich head coach Bryan Stortz said. “That really helped our defense tremendously because they couldn’t take as many shots.”
On the Hilltoppers last drive of the game, they had another mental mistake, being flagged for a delay of game on third-and-9 with under four minutes left. After being pushed back, Odom was only able to scramble for four yards and the ball went back to the Bears.
With 2:47 left in the game and only one timeout remaining for Glenbard West, Orlando took the snap from the Wildcat formation and ran for 12 yards and the first down. That was the first time the Bears were able to move the chains in the second half.
Player of the game: Orlando was the big-play guy for the Bears. He was seen mostly in the Wildcat formation and sprung through a hole at the end of the first half and darted 66 yards to set the Bears up with a field goal attempt.
Stat of the game: Four punts inside the 25-yard line for Weber in the second half alone. He came up huge for the Bears as he never allowed the Hilltoppers to start off with good field position.
It was over when: Orlando took the snap out of the Wildcat and sprinted left, eluding tacklers and stumbling for a 12 yard gain on a third-and-7 late in the fourth quarter. The Hilltoppers were forced to use their final timeout and the Bears ran out the clock from there.
Quote of the night: “We spent a lot of time in the film room this week. We really picked up on their formations and we had it nailed down to the select plays they could have ran before the ball was even snapped. We did a great job of reading and recognizing. Our pass defense was a little shaky but they are going to make plays. That’s inevitable. We just have to make more. “ – Running back/defensive back Mike Shield on their preparation this week.