WAUCONDA – Friday night’s Grant-Wauconda battle of Bulldogs came down to cat-quickness.
Wauconda junior running back Connor Vanselow’s, in particular.
The fast-twitch muscle fibers of Wauconda defensive backs Brock Pfeiffer and Shane Svoboda certainly helped, too.
The explosive homecoming heroes played integral roles in host Wauconda’s 17-9 victory in a Northern Lake County Conference game.
Vanselow (14 rushes, 107 yards) sprinted and darted for a pair of 17-yard gains in the first quarter, setting up junior Zachary Johnson’s 30-yard field goal — the only three points of the first half.
Pfeiffer and Svoboda each picked off a pass in the third quarter. Pfeiffer returned his zigzagging interception 62 yards to Grant’s 8-yard line, but the visitors forced three straight incompletions and took over on downs at their 7.
Svoboda came down with his INT on Grant’s next possession, this one paving the way for Wauconda sophomore quarterback Logan Olsen’s 17-yard TD strike to Vanselow at 4:31 of the third frame.
Wauconda (4-0, 2-0 in the NLCC) went up 16-0 on Vanselow’s electric 29-yard TD burst up the middle. Johnson’s two-point conversion toss to Chase Groelle upped the advantage to 17-0 with just more than a minute left in the third quarter.
Grant (1-3, 0-2), which lost 42-0 in last year’s meeting between the two programs and limited Wauconda to 29 points below its average points-per-game output Friday night, got on the board via an 8-yard TD run by junior running back Daymian Longtin at 8:27 of the fourth quarter.
Grant capped the night’s scoring with a 33-yard field goal off the foot of junior Ayden Sheppard with 1:21 left.
Grant junior QB Rylan Art overcame a challenging first half and finished 14-of-24 passing for 99 yards. He also rushed for a team-high 86 yards on 18 carries.
Wauconda’s other highlights included Johnson’s 55-yard punt that pinned Grant at its 1-yard line in the second quarter; Groelle’s alert recovery of Grant’s dropped lateral pass in the same quarter; and freshman outside linebacker Jackson Rudolph’s sack in the second half.
Junior running back Pryde Mendoza paced Grant in receiving yards with 52 on six receptions, and sophomore DB Vincent Hurst broke up an Olsen pass near the goal line in the second half.
Olsen executed the scramble of the night, running a country mile — at least — to escape the menacing intentions of Grant pass rushers before finding Vanselow on that 17-yard TD connection.