ADDISON — Football fans who love hard-nosed defense got quite a treat when No. 3 seed Addison Trail hosted No. 14 seed Lake Zurich on Saturday in the opening round of the Class 7A playoffs.
When the final horn sounded, the Blazers (9-1) emerged with a 7-3 victory over the Bears that they earned every inch of, down-by-down, in painstaking fashion. It was also Addison Trail’s first postseason win since 2004.
The Blazers had just 196 yards of total offense, while the Bears (5-5) had 126. But it was enough to send Addison Trail to a second-round showdown at Libertyville next week.
“We knew coming in it was gonna be a defensive struggle,” Addison Trail coach Paul Parpet Jr. said. “We stayed composed, we had our second-string quarterback out there for the second week in a row, and he managed the game.”
That second-string QB was junior Ryan Zygowicz, whose numbers (6-for-10, 69 yards passing) weren’t gaudy, but they did the trick as the Blazers played turnover-free football. With the two teams locked in a scoreless tie at halftime, another junior, Malik Pierre-Louis, found the end zone on Addison Trail’s first possession of the third quarter.
Pierre-Lewis carried the ball 22 times for 76 yards, and his seven-yard run was the game’s only touchdown.
“Yards were pretty tough to come by tonight, but I feel like I’ve trained so hard for these kinds of moments,” Pierre-Lewis said. “Our offense could’ve done better, but it is what it is. Lake Zurich is a good, tough football team. But we were tougher tonight when it mattered most.”
Lake Zurich missed a pair of field goals in the second quarter — one from 29 yards that sailed wide right, then a 32-yard attempt that lost elevation and fell just short of the yellow crossbar. The Bears finally dented the scoreboard thanks to a 26-yard field goal with 6:51 left in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense played really well, but the bottom line is we gave up a touchdown and they didn’t,” Lake Zurich coach David Proffitt said. “Some people may say, ‘Hey, if you give up just one touchdown, you should win the game.’ Theoretically, they are right. But it doesn’t change the fact we’re going home for the season and Addison Trail isn’t.”
The Bears were unable to take advantage of outstanding field position all night. In the first half alone, they started at their own 37-yard line twice and at the Blazers’ 29-yard line following a huge defensive stand on fourth-and-inches. In the second half, Lake Zurich started at its own 48, 44 and at the Addison Trail 49.
“Each time our special teams set us up with great field position, we couldn’t take advantage,” Proffitt said. “To win in the playoffs, you have to have all phases working. Offense, defense and special teams. We also took several costly penalties at inopportune moments.”
The Bears’ biggest bright spot on offense was junior Ben Klett (22 carries, 105 yards). Eleven of his runs went for five or more yards. He figures to be an integral part of Lake Zurich’s offense in 2015.
“There’s not much to say,” Klett said. “We played with our hearts. We gave it all we got. I guess it just wasn’t enough.”
“[Being part of Lake Zurich football] was one of the best things that’s ever happened in my life,” Bears senior Zane Lodico added.