Last year, weather delayed the start of the season-opening football game between Vernon Hills and DeKalb by more than two hours.
That turned out to only be a prelude to this year, when the game was delayed for about 2.5 hours.
“It was pretty crazy,” senior defensive lineman Steven Didier said. “It felt like we were waiting hours and hours. We were ready to go and just wanted to get out on the field.”
When the game finally started at 10 p.m. DeKalb scored 27 points in the opening quarter, which included an 84-yard touchdown run by Illinois recruit Dre Brown; Brown ran for 167 yards for the night.
Visiting Vernon Hills locked down its defense the rest of the game but was unable to cut meaningfully into the deficit and fell 33-14.
It was a long day — literally and figuratively — for the Cougars. Thanks to heavy traffic, the bus trip to DeKalb took almost three hours. When the game was delayed, the Cougars relaxed in the locker room and had several stretching sessions to remain loose ahead of the kickoff.
Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo said the coaches and athletic directors discussed postponing the game until Saturday before electing to kick off at 10 p.m.
The geographic distance between the two schools was the deciding factor to play the game late that evening. To save time, the coin toss took place in the gymnasium and halftime was abbreviated.
When the game finally began, Brown showed why he is such a highly-touted running back. Bellecomo said Brown plans to graduate early and enroll at Illinois for the second semester of this school year.
“It looked like he put on 20 pounds of muscle from last year,” Bellecomo said. “He’s the real deal.”
Vernon Hills started five sophomores on defense and all five learned a great deal about playing at varsity speed.
“We started tackling better and playing together as a team,” said Didier, who contributed seven tackles.
Added Bellecomo, “It took a quarter to get used to the speed of the game, but we’re excited about our younger players. We’re [confident] they’ll make [progress] throughout the season.”
The Cougars also stopped giving up big plays after the first quarter.
“We eliminated the mistakes,” senior Richard Clark said.
It was a long bus ride after the game, but after reviewing the video Saturday and practicing Monday, the Cougars started to feel better about where they are heading into a Week 2 game at home Friday against Larkin.
“The whole team feels good and our energy is high,” Didier said. “We can’t wait to get back after it.”