LAKE FOREST — After a dispiriting defeat to Lake Zurich last Friday, Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli prioritized his goals for the Scouts before Friday’s home game against Zion-Benton.
He talked about his program regaining its core values, believing victories only to be the result of principled practices where attention to detail is emphasized.
From the opening series until the final whistle Friday, the Scouts played like a team that had grown tired of losing. Behind a unstoppable running attack and inspired defense, Lake Forest (5-3, 2-2) snapped its two-game skid by defeating Zion-Benton 42-6 in a North Suburban Lake contest.
In doing so, the Scouts became postseason eligible for the eighth time in nine seasons.
“We thought we’d come out flat the last couple of weeks. A big goal of ours this week was to come out with a lot of fire,” senior linebacker Jack Traynor said.
One of Lake Forest’s problems the past two weeks was its rush defense. The Scouts had given up 497 combined yards on the ground in losses to Warren and Lake Zurich. On Friday night, the Scouts clogged leaks in their front seven. From the Zee-Bees’ opening possession — two plays that yielded a loss of three yards and ended with an interception of Zion-Benton quarterback Doug Gates — Lake Forest was quick to the football and equally swift to the perimeter of the field, never allowing Zion-Benton’s speedy skill position players get a head of steam.
In the first half, Zion-Benton (3-5, 1-4) gained just 40 yards on the ground on 14 carries. Gates had no open lanes to throw, completing only 5-of-10 passes for 12 yards.
“We had some enthusiasm out there. We ran to the ball. We didn’t spend time watching what they were doing,” Spagnoli said.
The defense’s opportunistic play on the game’s opening possession had a galvanizing effect on the offense. Junior Jonathan DiValerio’s interception allowed the Scouts to start their first offensive drive on the Zee-Bees’ 37-yard line. Six plays later, senior running back Wes Janeck scored from one yard out to give the Scouts a 7-0 lead with 10:41 left in the first quarter. Twenty-two of the Scouts’ yards on the drive were on the ground, setting the offensive tone for the evening.
“We came out strong running-wise, [junior] Quinn [Julian] and I. It was crucial for us,” Janeck said.
At times this season, the Scouts have had success with two complementary running backs, Janeck and Julian. Friday night, the duo ran roughshod over a porous Zion-Benton defense.
On the Scouts’ next possession after Janeck’s touchdown, Julian took a handoff and started left, then cut back right toward a huge opening in the middle of the field. His 55-yard touchdown was immediately followed by another Janeck score, this one from 58 yards out to give Lake Forest a 21-0 lead with 1:42 left in the first quarter.
Janeck finished the first half with 104 yards on eight carries, Julian 98 on five rushes. When Traynor intercepted Gates and ran 38 yards for a touchdown in the half’s final minute, it gave Lake Forest a four-touchdown lead.
After starting the season 3-1, Zion-Benton is eliminated from the postseason.
“We knew the back half of the schedule would be tough,” Zion-Benton coach Robert Moynihan said. “We are trying to change the culture here. It takes time.”