By Rick Lytle, Online Editor-in-Chief
It’s Saturday around lunchtime, and seven Prospect football players are sitting at the Dairy Queen in Mount Prospect the day after the Knights 35-27 win over Hoffman Estates. Running back Luke Zardzin is treating his offensive linemen to a well-deserved meal after they helped him rush for 244 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns. That’s an average of 9 yards per carry, highlighted by seven runs for 15 yards or more.
“Luke is a great crutch to lean on for our offense. Our offensive line coach, Tim Beishir, every time I want to pass he’s like, ‘give it to Luke,’” Head Coach Dan Deboeuf said.
Luke had high praise for his offensive-line. “I love them. They played so well today, I mean I barely got touched. It was easy for me,” Zardzin said.
Regardless of how the Prospect offense played, the Prospect defense had the opportunity to seal the win. The Knights were up by eight points with 3:29 left in the game when Hoffman Estates got the ball on their own 20-yard line. Both offenses had slowed down in the fourth quarter, combining for zero points, but the Hawks looked ready to change that. After a 26-yard reception by Nate Fisher and four runs for a combined 42 yards from running back Mekhi Williams, Hoffman Estates found themselves 13 yards from the endzone with 2:08 remaining.
After a defensive stand, Hoffman’s hopes came down to a final fourth and sixth. With The U roaring the loudest it had all night, the pass from Joe Lovelace, who finished the night 20 for 34 with 384 passing yards and two touchdowns, dropped incomplete in the endzone. One more Zardzin run for 15 yards and the game was over.
The defensive battle of the fourth quarter seemed like a different game compared to the third quarter.
Hoffman Estates held a 14-13 lead coming out of the half, but were quick to extend that lead to eight points with a 17-yard touchdown rush by Williams. After the Prospect offense stalled, their special teams and defense picked them up. A booming 68-yard punt by Senior Adam Mekky, who also had multiple timely tackles throughout the game, pinned Hoffman Estates inside their own 15. A few plays later, Junior Jake Winski intercepted the pass to give the Knights the spark they needed and the ball.
“The defense picked us up a lot, and we picked the defense up a lot. It was a really good team effort,” Zardzin said.
A 43-yard pass from Gary Moeller to Noah Marx set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Zardzin and Prospect tied the game 21-21. Moeller finished the night 7-14, good for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Marx had two catches for 106 yards. The defense forced a three and out the next possession and the momentum had swung completely in Prospect’s favor in a few short minutes.
A 27-yard touchdown pass from Moeller came next and the Knights took a 28-21 lead with 4:29 left in the third quarter. They would not give up the lead the rest of the night. A 2-yard touchdown run by Hoffman Estates and a 63-yard touchdown reception by Marx and the scoring for the night would be over at 35-27.
The first half wasn’t lacking in excitement. After Prospect threw an interception on the first play of the game to give Hoffman Estates the ball only 14 yards from the endzone, the defense came up huge for Prospect and forced a turnover on downs. Prospect had the ball back in their hands and marched 82 yards down the field to score the first points of the game on a three yard Zardzin touchdown run. Just six minutes later, they scored again with a 10-yard Zardzin run. A 45-yard pass from Quarterback Gary Moeller to Matt Meyer was a large chunk of that drive.
Not to be outdone, Lovelace launched a 65-yard touchdown to Jashawn Johnson on the next possession to make it a 13-7 game. Johnson caught 5 passes for 118 yards. After a special teams mishap by Prospect, Hoffman Estates was able to score again with ten minutes remaining in the second quarter giving them a 14-13 lead that they would squander in the second half.
Zardzin is happy with his team’s performance but says they aren’t done improving.
“We knew that this time was going to be one of the best teams on our schedule, but we know that the best team on our schedule is still coming up and we have a lot of tough games left. This was a step in the right direction, but we still have to get better every week.”
The Knights (2-0) play Niles West (0-2) next week at home.