Friday night’s matchup between the last two Fox Valley Conference unbeaten teams lived up to its billing.
Jacobs held off Prairie Ridge 42-35 in a back-and-forth game in which neither team ever led by more than seven points.
It started with a wild first quarter, highlighted by two kickoff return touchdowns by Prairie Ridge’s Tyler Vasey after two touchdown drives by Jacobs.
It ended with a thrilling fourth quarter as Prairie Ridge came up with a stop and scored for its first lead, only to have Jacobs strike right back twice and come up with two pivotal defensive stops.
“That was two really good teams,” Jacobs coach Brian Zimmerman said. “We preached being disciplined all week. We didn’t like the way we came out last week with mental errors. We preached, ‘Do your assignment.’
“I felt like we were in a repeat of last year. That stop by Ashton [Niehaus] at the end was unbelievable.”
Prairie Ridge had a fourth-and-2 at Jacobs’ 14-yard line in the final minute when Niehaus, a defensive back, grabbed running back Luke Vanderwiel for a 2-yard loss to seal the game.
Zimmerman was right about the potential repeat of last year’s finish, only in reverse. Jacobs scored in the final minute a season ago and was stopped on a 2-point conversion, giving Prairie Ridge a 49-48 win.
If Prairie Ridge had scored, Wolves coach Chris Schremp said he absolutely would have gone for two and the win.
Prairie Ridge (3-1, 3-1 FVC) will need some help to win or share the conference championship, but Vasey felt that game will help the Wolves later.
“We all discussed this is what playoff football is going to be like,” he said. “If we want to win in the playoffs, you’re going to have to face teams like this. It [stinks] to lose, but we’re going to learn a lot from it. It’s going to make our team better.”
Danger zone: Vasey is an electrifying runner in the mold of former Wolves players Samson Evans and Taidhgin Trost. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Vasey ran back Jacobs’ first two kickoffs Friday for 85- and 89-yard touchdowns. He also scored on runs of 31 and 36 yards, while running 21 times for 213 yards. He leads the area with 935 yards rushing and has 11 rushing touchdowns.
“Tyler is one of the fastest athletes I’ve ever played against,” Niehaus said. “He’s spectacular. It’s a different type of player on the field. The whole team has to come together, and that’s the only way we’re going to stop him.”
Vasey played only half of last season after recovering from an elbow injury suffered just before the opener. He still ran for 745 yards and nine touchdowns as a running back, providing another threat for the Wolves with his tremendous speed.
“He’s unbelievable,” Schremp said. “He’s dynamic, no doubt about it.”
Hoping for good news: Prairie Ridge safety Dom Creatore, one of its top defensive players, left Friday’s game on the last play of the first quarter with a left arm injury. Creatore tackled Jacobs fullback Paulie Rudolph at the end of a 20-yard screen pass.
Creatore spent the rest of the game on the sideline with his arm in a sling and an ice bag on his hand and wrist.
“He has to get X-rays on his wrist,” Schremp said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Upper hand: Jacobs (4-0, 4-0 FVC) now leads Prairie Ridge, Huntley, Crystal Lake South and Cary-Grove (all at 3-1) with five conference games remaining. The Golden Eagles are trying to win their first title since taking the FVC Valley Division in 2013.
Tight end Grant Stec is not looking nearly that far down the road.
“Huntley better watch out,” Stec said of this week’s foe. “We’re coming after them. We’re going to keep it rolling. We have an amazing group. We had an amazing brotherhood last year. We brought in new guys, and that brotherhood is starting to come back to life.”
Big week: Since 2009, Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove have played for a combined nine state championships, all but one of those was in Class 6A.
The rivalry of Class 6A powerhouses resumes at 7 p.m. Friday when C-G visits Prairie Ridge. Prairie Ridge won Class 6A state titles in 2011, 2016 and 2017. C-G won in 2009, 2018 and 2021.
“We just have two quality high schools in Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove, two programs who historically have had success, especially lately,” C-G coach Brad Seaburg said after the Trojans’ 18-0 victory over McHenry on Saturday. “I know our kids look forward to it, and our fans do. We want to get back to work on Monday and get ready to play them.”
A tough 0-4 team: McHenry (0-4, 0-4) has lost to the FVC perennial top teams (Prairie Ridge, Huntley, Jacobs and C-G), but the Warriors have been in every game. Their first three losses all were decided by one score.
“McHenry played really well. They played hard and tackled well,” Seaburg said after Saturday’s game.
First-year Warriors coach Joel Beard said his team needs more consistent execution at crucial points of games.
“They had the turnover, and we get the ball down there [inside the 10-yard line], and we don’t finish,” Beard said. “Those opportunities are there,and we didn’t take advantage of it. When you’re playing a program like Cary-Grove, they’re not going to give it back to you.”
Where are the blowouts? If it seems like the FVC is more competitive, top to bottom, this season, there is good reason. It is.
Through four weeks of FVC games, there has been only one game that produced a running clock.
Prairie Ridge’s 63-28 victory over Burlington Central was the only game in league play so far in which an opponent led by 40 points, thus bringing in the IHSA rule where the clock continues to run except for scoring plays or timeouts.
The wild offensive night prompted this from Marengo coach Paul Forsythe.
“We’d like to not let up that many points, but when you got ‘Super 8′ over here, you’ve got a chance to beat anyone,” Forsythe said.
He was referring to senior quarterback Josh Holst, who wears No. 8, but who gave new meaning to the “Super 8″ nickname Friday by producing eight touchdowns: four passing and four rushing.
Holst had three passing and three rushing touchdowns each in the Indians’ 41-20 win over Canton in Week 2.
Saving his energy: Haiden Janke had just finished a 29-carry, 145-yard rushing effort, and one might expect the Huntley junior to be walking gingerly and looking worn down.
But moments after his yeoman effort in the Raiders’ 16-7 FVC win over Burlington Central, Janke was just the opposite. In fact, he looked like he might have another 29 carries in him as he spoke to the media.
Part of that endless energy could be a result of mindful summer preparation, Huntley coach Mike Naymola said.
“We held him back during the summer months. We limited his workouts and reps during July and August,” Naymola said. “The idea was then to unleash him during the season. He looked real fresh out there in the fourth quarter.”
The Raiders relied on Janke during a critical fourth-quarter drive right after Burlington Central had cut a 10-0 Huntley lead to 10-7. The Raiders marched 72 yards in nine plays on their ensuing possession. Janke carried the ball seven times for 59 yards during that march, including the last four yards for a score.
“He’s got that Janke DNA in him,” Naymola said, referring to Jaiden’s older brother, Alex, who was the Northwest Herald 2021 Spring Football Player of the Year as a running back-linebacker. “He doesn’t ever seem to tire out. He’s just such a bruising running back. He leans on you. He’s not that back who will break one for 60 yards, but he’s very competitive and just keeps coming at you. If you’re a linebacker or defensive back, you don’t want to see this kid running at you.”
• Sam Natrop contributed to this report.