CARPENTERSVILLE – Crystal Lake South junior Brady Schroeder had not started a game quarterback since he was in eighth grade.
Schroeder, typically a starting wide receiver, stepped into the role Friday night and was part of a total team effort in a 39-23 win over Dundee-Crown.
With starting quarterback Justin Kowalak, one of the area’s top passers through three weeks, out with an injury, Schroeder engineered four first-half scoring drives, and the defense and special teams were equally impressive helping the Gators (2-2, 2-2) build a 29-point lead.
“It was a lot of fun to watch on both sides of the ball and in special teams. We had a different guy running the offense, but everyone stepped up to help out,” Gators coach Rob Fontana said.
While Schroder guided the offense, it was running back Nate Van Witzenburg that found the end zone twice in first half. Breaking off touchdown runs of 29 and 61 yards, the junior’s big play ability made a huge difference.
“It felt amazing to have open lanes, and all the credit goes to the offensive line. The running game was working and we just took advantage of that,” said Van Witzenburg, who ended the night with 136 yards on 16 carries and three total touchdowns.
The defense shined as well, registering two sacks, one pass deflection in the end zone and one interception in the opening half.
“Just reading the keys and executing what we practice throughout the week, we feed off the energy and made some big plays,” said junior Griffin Baker, who ended the night with two interceptions.
The special teams also made its presence felt.
Kicker Kevin Landa drilled a 30-yard field goal and also pinned a punt deep in Dundee-Crown territory. Then the special teams scored in a very unique way as Cooper LePage ripped the ball from the hands of a Dundee-Crown kickoff returner and sprinted 22 yards for a touchdown.
In his first game at quarterback, Schroeder ended the night going 19-21 passing for 244 yards with one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown.
“I was very nervous coming into the game, it was big shoes to fill. It was fun, though, to say the least,” Schroeder said.
“Our whole goal was to cycle the offense around him and he did a great job, no turnovers, it was impressive,” Fontana said.
Dundee-Crown (0-4, 0-4) had a very strong second half. Junior running back Keegan Otte rushed for 199 yards on 33 carries, with 113 yards coming in the second half and rushing for an 11-yard touchdown.
Quarterback Zach Randl heated up after the break, going 9-15 in the second half while throwing two touchdown passes. Hunter Guyon had a big game receiving, grabbing a touchdown pass with 139 yards.
“Our players have a ton of character. They play hard and while our game plan wasn’t that effective in the first half, we really played well in the second half and we’ll build off that,” Dundee-Crown coach Mike Steinhaus said.