CRYSTAL LAKE – The deck was stacked in Prairie Ridge’s favor before it set foot on its soggy field Friday night against Vernon Hills.
The Cougars had seen mainly spread offenses, with no triple-option opponents. They had played eight of their nine games on artificial surface fields.
Prairie Ridge used all of that to jump on Vernon Hills from the outset and cruise to a 49-0 victory in their Class 6A playoff opener. The No. 7-seeded Wolves (8-2) will play at No. 2 Wauconda (10-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We knew we’d have the energy if we started off hot, especially with our home fans, and from there we just kept our foot on the pedal,” quarterback-defensive back Mason Loucks said. “We got the ball and took it to them right away.”
The Wolves took six plays to move 67 yards and score on Tyler Vasey’s 37-yard run, his first of three touchdowns. Three plays later, Loucks picked off Cougars quarterback Jake Pieper and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
The Wolves recovered a fumble the ensuing kickoff and drove 40 yards for Noah Solis’ 1-yard touchdown. Vernon Hills (7-3) had run three plays and trailed, 21-0.
“It couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start,” Cougars coach Bill Bellecomo said. “It’s a hard hold against a program like that. They’re such a good program and they do what they do really well, better than anybody aside of Cary-Grove in their same (Fox Valley) conference. You can’t spot them any points. I don’t think we ever rebounded from that first quarter.”
The Wolves even added another touchdown before the quarter when Loucks broke off a 43-yard run, then Vasey scored from 39 yards out.
“We knew our style of play was drastically different than what they were used to and we thought we could jump on them early, and that came to fruition,” Wolves coach Chris Schremp said. “Seeing mainly spread teams and playing every game (except one) on turf. Coming here and playing us in the rain, the weather and this field is our environment.”
Prairie Ridge scored again before the half when Loucks hit running back Zach Bentsen for a 51-yard touchdown. They had 250 total yards at halftime. Vasey scored again on Prairie Ridge’s second play of the third quarter for a 42-0 advantage and a running clock.
The offensive performance was no surprise, but the shutout was the defense’s first of the season. Defensive back Logan Harlow, who had two interceptions the previous game against Crystal Lake Central, picked off a pass in the end zone to stop Vernon Hills’ best drive of the game.
“We knew what was coming from studying and watching film,” Harlow said. “This gives us a lot of confidence going into the next game.”
Prairie Ridge’s Jack Schnoor, who plays on both lines, said the Wolves embraced the bad weather and muddy field.
“With the weather like this, we knew stopping the run was going to be our main thing,” Schnoor said. “We just wanted to take it out as fast as we could. We’re more adapted for this type of weather. Our practice field looks exactly like this. That really helped us out with this shutout.”
The Wolves held Vernon Hills to 76 total yards and had two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
“We prepared well, sometimes it’s just not your night,” Bellecomo said. “There were a lot of variables. That’s a good program. They’re a good football team.
“I’m proud of our seniors. We battled. We have 30 guys and we fight every night.”
Prairie Ridge 49, Vernon Hills 0
Vernon Hills 0 0 0 0 – 0
Prairie Ridge 28 7 7 7 – 49
PR–Vasey 37 run (Tapia kick), 9:11.
PR–Loucks 40 interception return (Tapia kick), 7:53.
PR–Solis 1 run (Tapia kick), 3:42.
PR–Vasey 32 run (Tapia kick), 0:07.
PR–Bentsen 51 pass from Loucks (Tapia kick), 0:26.
PR–Vasey 39 run (Tapia kick), 9:01.
PR–Finn 1 run (Tapia kick), 8:15.
RUSHING–Vernon Hills: Lee 6-21, Pieper 18-11, Slavish 1-10, Choi 6-4. Totals: 31-46. Prairie Ridge: Vasey 7-137, Loucks 7-60, Finn 8-55, Bentsen 4-26, Solis 4-13, Vanderwiel 2-5, Tomasiewicz 2-3. Totals: 34-309.
PASSING–Vernon Hills: Pieper 2-7-2-28, Lazor 0-2-0-0. Prairie Ridge: Loucks 1-2-0-51.
RECEIVING–Vernon Hills: Rimas 1-17, Lee 1-11. Prairie Ridge: Bentsen 1-51.
TOTAL TEAM YARDS–Vernon Hills 76, Prairie Ridge 360.