Vernon Hills defense shows signs in blowout

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LINCOLNSHIRE — As was the case in the Vernon Hills football team’s 52-7 loss to Stevenson Friday, the numbers don’t always tell the entire tale.

Despite allowing 17 first-quarter points to the Patriots, there were bright spots for the Cougars’ defensive line and run-stopping ability.

“I thought there were some (defensive) bright spots early and at different points throughout the game,” Vernon Hills’ first-year coach Bill Bellecomo said. “That’s a really good offense they’ve (the Patriots) got over there that keeps improving. There were times where we contained him a bit, but the final score isn’t something we’re proud of either, of course.”

The numbers back up Bellecomo’s claims. Despite taking a 31-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, Stevenson’s many early attempts at running the ball against Vernon Hills were often stymied by the Cougars’ defensive line.

In the first half, Stevenson carried the ball 24 times for 83 yards. That’s an average of just 3.4 yards per carry.

Even Patriots quarterback Willie Bourbon (who rushed for more than 100 yards in just one half against Libertyville a week earlier) was held to six carries for nine yards and was sacked once.

“I think their defensive line did a nice job while I was in the game of sealing holes at the line of scrimmage before I could get to them,” Bourbon said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of big running plays early on. But the thing they probably did the best was keep me contained inside the pocket a lot when I was trying to roll out.

“It didn’t make me uncomfortable, but there were times where I was forced to stay in the pocket because of their pass rush. They’ve got a lot of younger guys on that team that are going to keep improving. They keep coming at you.”

Making Bourbon stay in one spot was Vernon Hills’ plan all along, according to 6-foot-3 senior DT/OT Matt Kahn.

“Our defensive ends were well aware Willie would probably try to scramble and roll out of the pocket a lot when we watched film of him from the week before,” Kahn said. “So we made it one of our focal points to try and make sure our defensive ends could contain him. We discussed it as a team a lot.”

Kahn said it will be important for him and his teammates to try and rebound this week, when the Cougars (1-4 overall, 1-1 NSC Prairie) face North Chicago in a key division showdown.

“Us winning this week would be huge because the Prairie Division is still wide open,” Kahn said. “With all of our games coming up against division teams, we can put ourselves right back in it if we play the way we know we can. We’ve already got one division win against Grant, so we feel like we can compete with anyone in our division.”

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