LAKE FOREST — A loss can often magnify a football team’s weaknesses and diminish its strengths.
Lake Forest’s 35-24 home loss to Lake Zurich on Friday was an example of that polarity.
First the weaknesses.
The Scouts were beat up by a desperate Bears team. Out of Lake Zurich’s 60 offensive plays, 57 were runs, totaling 287 yards. That’s an average of five yards per rush. When a team is that effective on the ground, it shows a domination at the point of attack.
Coach Chuck Spagnoli was frank in his explanation of what happened.
“They out-competed us. They played harder than us. I can’t think of how many times that’s happened over the past few years,” he said. “We didn’t play with the effort we needed to. I did a poor job getting us ready.”
Add the 207 rushing yards gained by Warren in a 27-14 loss Oct. 3, and that’s close to 500 yards rushing allowed in two games. This Friday, Lake Forest will host Zion-Benton. How do the Scouts prevent getting gashed on the ground a third time?
Not by changing their scheme. Not by changing personnel. No, it will take a more inside-out approach at practice.
“When we are going through regular blocking drills, there needs to be a purpose behind how those drills are enforced,” Spagnoli said. “It’s the way the drills are administrated and the protocol of the drills. We will do them the correct way.”
The symbiotic relationship between Lake Forest’s leaky defense and its inconsistent offense showed signs of separation Friday. Considering the level of competition, junior quarterback Danny Carollo played perhaps his best game in his seventh varsity start.
One drive in particular showed Carollo’s growth.
Trailing 14-3, the Scouts had the ball on their 33-yard line with 1:33 remaining in the half. Up to that point, Carollo had amassed 31 yards passing on three completions. But he drove Lake Forest down the field in eight plays, capping the drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to senior Michael Christensen.
On the play before the touchdown, Carollo eluded a Bears pass rusher, keeping his eyes downfield before throwing a 29-yard completion to junior receiver Thomas Doherty.
“He has a very good eye for the game,” said senior tight end Pat Bentz, who caught Carollo’s second touchdown on a 2-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter. “He can find the open guy and put the ball on him.”
Carollo added: “I’m getting more comfortable seeing what [coverage] the defense is in. It got easier as the game went on.”
His final numbers — 14-of-23 passing, 152 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions — were a step forward.
Carollo’s continued evolution, aligned with a spirited effort from the defensive unit Friday, could give the Scouts their fifth win and all but ensure an eighth postseason appearance in nine seasons.
But Spagnoli and his players are taking nothing for granted.
“The big message is nothing is guaranteed. [Zion-Benton] will be the biggest game of the season,” Bentz said.
Spagnoli added: “We have to bring this thing back to the bare bones and our core philosophies and values. We have to compete.”