Vernon Hills defense tough against the run

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Even though it has just one win thus far in the 2012 season, Vernon Hills has shown promise on the defensive side of the ball.

The Cougars (1-3 overall, 0-2 North Suburban Conference Prairie Division) allowed just four net yards of offense in the first quarter of Friday’s 20-14 loss to Wauconda, and 60 yards the whole first half.

“I think our defensive line is probably our biggest strength right now,” senior linebacker David Pierce said. “They’ve been doing a pretty good job of stopping the ball at the line of scrimmage and being aggressive.”

The Cougars were physical at the line of scrimmage throughout Friday’s game and had little difficulty against the punishing north-south rushing style of David Starkey, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound running back. Vernon Hills held Starkey to 26 yards on seven carries before he left with an injury.

The Cougars held Wauconda to 1.5 yards per carry (24 rushes, 36 yards).

While Wauconda quarterback Austin Swenson threw for a pair of touchdown passes, Vernon Hills’ secondary and linebacking core gave Swenson trouble at times with its tight pass coverage. Swenson was just 10 of 24 for 122 yards.

Vernon Hills junior linebacker Eric Lee had a pair of sacks against the Bulldogs.

“One of the things we have to try do is force a few more turnovers ourselves,” Lee said. “I think our defense has a lot of room to grow, and a lot of work to do, but we’re really working hard to keep our team and our offense in games.”

The Vernon Hills offense turned the ball over twice Friday, and one time the result was a 59-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

“We still have a ways to go before we get to where we want to be,” Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken said. “We have a big (division) game coming up against Grant on Saturday, and we’ve got a lot of things to work on if we hope to stop them. It’s their homecoming, so it should be a big test for us.”

The Cougars expect quarterback Brett Peterson, who left the game against Wauconda after being sacked, to be back for Saturday’s 1 p.m. game. In the unlikely event that Peterson can’t play, Jacob Hallendorff has shown he’s capable of stepping in, as he did when he engineered a late drive for six points Friday.

“They both (Brett and Jacob) have shown they’re capable of handling things back there, and each has their own unique strengths I think,” Monken said. “Both are seniors, and while Brett may be better at handling the option portion of our running game and our offense, Jacob might be a bit better at throwing the ball which you saw (against Wauconda). He’s always done a good job when asked to step in for Brett.”

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