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Prairie Ridge rolls into 6A quarterfinals with win over Wauconda

WAUCONDA — Undefeated Wauconda was hoping to match up with visiting Prairie Ridge in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs, but the respective conferences don’t compare well.

The Fox Valley has fielded several state champions and includes some 8A-sized schools. Prairie Ridge has won three state titles itself, most recently in 2017. The Northern Lake County Conference has smaller schools and limited playoff success.

The Wolves set the tone early, getting their triple-option offense in gear from the opening play, and rolled to a 49-20 victory on Friday.

Prairie Ridge (9-2) advances to play the winner of Saturday’s Lake Forest at Machesney Park Harlem game.

“You come out of the Fox Valley, you’re prepared for the playoffs,” Wolves coach Chris Schremp said. “I really think that showed.”

Prairie Ridge’s run-heavy offense might appear relatively basic, but with runners headed in every direction, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense to cover the entire width of the field.

Prairie Ridge took the opening kickoff and marched 70 yards in seven plays, with five different players carrying the ball. That was pretty much how things went until the marching band took the field.

In the first half, Prairie Ridge rolled up 343 yards rushing on 31 attempts, an average of 11.1 yards per carry. The Wolves had a pair of 100-yard rushers in the first half, Tyler Vasey with 108 and Zach Bentsen with 105 yards on just four carries.

After scoring on their first four possessions and building a 49-6 lead at intermission, the Wolves used their subs while the second half featured a running clock.

“Our whole team has been getting better,” Schremp said. “I made the comment to our coaches last week how I was so impressed with our team and how they really attacked the playoff practices. Just in general, we’ve gotten better as a team period — offense, defense, special teams. It’s not just coach talk, you can see it in the last couple games. We played really well.

Vasey broke loose for a 42-yard TD on Prairie Ridge’s second possession. Bentsen had 45- and 38-yard scores. And just to prove they could do it, quarterback Mason Loucks dropped back and hit an open Noah Solis for a 54-yard TD pass.

Dominant is probably not a strong enough description for the Prairie Ridge offensive line of Jack Schnoor, Henrik Nystrom, Matthew Nygren, sophomore John Fallaw and tight end Ethan Goudschaal.

This night completed a great run by Wauconda’s senior class, which went 9-0 as freshmen and started 10-0 this fall. The Bulldogs have gotten past the second round of the playoffs just once in school history, in 1992

“It’s been a long ride, last time I’ll ever play football,” running back Colin Husko said. “The relationships we had since second grade, I love all of them like my brothers. We’ve been through everything together. Nothing is going to be the same without them.”

Wauconda got on the board with an 85-yard kickoff return by Husko in the second quarter. The Bulldogs added an 8-yard run from Husko and 43-yard sprint by quarterback Vince Bennett in the second half.

“I love those seniors, I love what all these kids have done,” Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. “What are we, 15-2 over the last two seasons, within a play of winning back-to-back (conference) titles? These kids really set a standard. Now it’s up to the juniors and everybody else to one-up them or live up to it.”