By Rick Lytle, Online Editor-in-Chief
The Prospect crowd was waiting for something to get excited about. The second quarter saw no points from either team as both defenses were able to stop anything either offense tried. It looked like just another screen pass from Prospect’s Gary Moeller to Brian Doherty, until Doherty set his feet to throw. Streaking behind the defense was Noah Marx, who caught the ball, beat four Rolling Meadows players, and scored a 61-yard touchdown that tied the game at 14-14 with under three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
While Prospect was able to tie the game up, the Rolling Meadows offense recovered from their earlier struggles and scored two fourth quarter touchdowns. The two scores were enough to give the Mustangs a 26-14 win in the second round of the Class 7A IHSA Playoffs.
Prospect’s defense was what kept them in the game. After allowing the Mustangs to score a touchdown on their first two drives, the defense buckled down and didn’t give up another point for 36 minutes of game time.
“So gutsy, so gutsy … I’m super proud of our defense and [defensive coordinator] Coach Collins,” Head Coach Dan Debouef said.
The offense struggled significantly for only the second game this season, the other time coming against Rolling Meadows earlier in the season. Rolling Meadows was the only team that was able to hold Prospect under 28 points all season, and did it twice. Despite their offensive struggles, the game was 14-14 heading into the fourth quarter with a birth to the quarterfinals on the line.
“I loved our fight. Obviously we didn’t execute well enough on offense, but I loved our fight,” Debouef said.
Prospect started the fourth with the ball in their hands, but were forced to punt and gave Rolling Meadows the ball and a chance to reclaim the lead. The Mustangs drove the ball down to the Prospect 8 with just over seven minutes remaining. On third and goal, Chris Divito punched the ball in on a three-yard carry and gave Rolling Meadows the lead back. Divito had 136 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns.
Divito wasn’t done yet. After a blocked extra point, Prospect had the ball down 20-14, still in a position to take the lead. On second down, a Prospect fumble was recovered by Divito that gave Rolling Meadows the ball just 33 yards from the endzone. Later in the drive, Charlie Schmidt’s rushing touchdown sealed the game for Rolling Meadows and put them up 26-14 with 2:02 remaining.
Prospect’s offense relied on big plays. After quickly finding themselves down 14-0, Moeller connected with Marx for an 80-yard touchdown pass. After going three and out the first three drives, Prospect got their first touchdown before their first first down. The touchdown came with seconds remaining in the first quarter and gave Prospect confidence heading into the second quarter. Moeller was 14-25 for 132 passing yards and Marx had seven receptions for 158 yards.
Despite the loss, Prospect players and coaches feel that the program is at a turning point. The teams eight wins this season were the most since 2010, and all three of their losses came to teams in the Max Preps Top 25 rankings for Illinois. In addition, the team set the points per game record at the school and were seeded high enough to host the first home playoff game at Prospect since 2012.
“[The seniors] took that next step. Last year we got in [to the playoffs], this year we got in and won, and next year we’re going to look to build on that,” Debouef said.
Seniors Adam Ryerson and Ryan Traviola both had key interceptions for the Knights. Ryerson is excited to see the program continue to build on its progress.
“Seniors, we did everything we could, and we put our best foot forward. But these underclassmen, they’ve got talent, they’ve got everything,” Ryerson said. “These guys next year are going to be insane.”