CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake South wide receiver Brandon LaPak almost had the ball in his hands when he saw the flash of another white jersey.
“I was hauling as fast as I could, then I saw Tyler [Baker] coming,” LaPak said. “I sprung forward and got out of his way or I think we would have collided.”
Baker, a junior wide receiver, snagged quarterback Austin Rogers’ pass and raced to the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with 7:05 remaining as the Gators defeated Crystal Lake Central, 14-7, Friday in their nonconference football game at Owen Metcalf Field.
“We were both running skinny posts and his was a little deeper,” Baker said. “I just caught it and took off. I just wanted to get into the end zone and put the points on the board.”
If Baker’s big grab looked like he intercepted it from his LaPak, there was good reason.
“I was throwing to Brandon,” Rogers said. “But keep that on the down-low. I was like, ‘Who picked it?’ ”
South (1-1) had not scored an offensive point in its first seven quarters of the season. Rogers hit LaPak, who was celebrating his 18th birthday, for a 24-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. The winning play came from something Gators offensive coordinator Bill Altmann drew up on the fly. The Gators saw Central’s safeties committing to the run and thought the play could be open with play-action, which it was.
“Sometimes you just draw things up in the sand and they work,” South coach Chuck Ahsmann said. “It didn’t look good there, down 7-0. We have to get it going more on offense and drive them off the ball.”
Central (1-1) scored on its first possession when quarterback Kyle Lavand hit wide receiver Matt Tegtmeier for a 36-yard gain to the South 1. Running back Kevin Peisker scored on the next play and the Tigers’ defense looked like that one score might be enough for their first victory against South since 1999.
“We played tough, but we gave up too many big plays,” Central coach Matt Fralick said. “And when we had opportunities to make big plays, we didn’t do so. We struggled catching the ball at times.”
Lavand had some deep passes that nearly connected, but the Tigers were unable to generate any more points.
“We made a couple of adjustments on defense,” Ahsmann said. “I’m proud of our guys. Tyler Baker came up with that big interception, he hadn’t worked on defense that much.”
With 2:37 remaining, Baker caught his second pass of the fourth quarter not intended for him. Lavand threw for wide receiver Jack Ortner, but Baker leaped up with Ortner and came down with the catch.
It was sweet redemption for South, which was frustrated after a 28-2 season-opening loss to Marian Central, and headed toward an 0-2 record.
“This gives us a boost of confidence,” LaPak said. “We started off ugly, then we started clicking a little more. This gives us a confidence boost and some pride.”