Lake Zurich stays positive as playoffs begin

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LINCOLNSHIRE — Noah Allgood was on a college visit Saturday when he received a text message from teammate Brent Sweetwood.

It was less than 24 hours after Lake Zurich’s football team had lost 24-17 to Stevenson, relinquishing the NSC Lake crown to the Patriots. Lake Zurich had just ended its Saturday team meetings and Allgood wanted to know the message delivered by the coaches.

“It read ‘1,’ ‘1 game at a time,’ ” Allgood said. “Everything is about 1-0 and focusing on the next week.”

Lake Zurich had much at stake Friday night. A victory would have given the Bears a second consecutive unshared conference championship and an undefeated season. They seemed on their way with a 17-0 first-quarter lead. But the Bears faltered with 11 unconverted third downs in 14 attempts, four turnovers and eight penalties for 70 yards. These self-inflicted wounds — along with an opportunistic, talented Stevenson team — sent the Bears (8-1, 5-1) to their first regular-season loss in more than a year. That gave the title to Stevenson (7-2, 6-0).

The team usually watches film the day after the game. On Saturday, coaches left it up to the players, preferring the team move on and shift focus toward the playoffs. Those who did watch film saw a lack of consistency.

“We started out really well and we have to maintain that the whole game,” said Sweetwood, who caught three passes for 41 yards in the loss. “We don’t want to dwell on the past. We can’t change what happened.”

Senior safety and running back Sean Lynch added: “That was a playoff atmosphere, a playoff-like game. We started out hot. We have to sustain that throughout the whole game.”

Allgood, who was 6-for-6 to start the game but did not complete a pass on his final eight attempts, said he felt the offense became too predictable after the Bears jumped out ahead.

“They knew what we were doing before we snapped the ball,” said Allgood, who finished with 105 yards passing and two interceptions. “I felt like we started really aggressive and got all conservative trying to pound the ball down their throats.”

Lake Zurich rushed for 138 yards, but with 45 attempts, the average yard per rush was 3.1, well below the team’s season average of 5.7. Trying to pound the ball down their throats was not working.

Still, the Bears have plenty of positives. They still received a No. 1 seed for the Class 7A playoffs. Lake Zurich will host Elk Grove in the first round of the postseason. Most important, it was just one loss. Moving forward, it’s about the next game, and if Lake Zurich wins, the next one after that.

“Losing is an ugly reminder of a feeling you don’t want again,” Lynch said. “Now we take every game one at a time and focus on this game and this game only.”

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