Streamwood shuts out Larkin in UEC River
By Gene Chamberlain For Sun-Times Media September 21, 2012 11:14PM
Streamwood's Blake Holder runs a kickoff back for a touchdown last season. Holder plans to sign with Northern Illinois on Wednesday. | File~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 22, 2012 2:03AM
Scoreless its two previous games against powerful Batavia and Waubonsie Valley, Streamwood’s offense needed to be revived by its special teams and defense against Larkin on Friday night.
The Sabres seized a 14-point halftime lead over the injury-riddled Royals on a 75-yard punt return touchdown by Blake Holder and a 50-yard interception return by Austin Mugnai, then rediscovered their running game in the second half for a 27-0 Upstate Eight River victory at Elgin’s Memorial Field.
“We thought we could make some things happen with the kicking game, and return game and the interception was a nice little addition,” Streamwood coach Cal Cummins said.
Streamwood’s defense produced five turnovers, including three interceptions by Mugnai, and when the Sabres got their running game going, it was impossible for Larkin to stop. Both Kyle Strong (11 rushes, 103 yards) and Lenard Brown (16 carries, 114 yards) went over the 100-yard mark.
“We put a lot of emphasis on the (running game) this week,” Cummins said. “We really felt we could come out and run because we had everybody back healthy and we thought we needed to run the ball better.”
Holder, the NIU recruit and state track qualifier, fielded Larkin’s second punt, cut toward the right sideline, and then up the field to the end zone without being seriously challenged with 5:15 left in the first quarter.
“We talked about not kicking it to No. 1 (Holder) and then what do we do?,” Larkin coach Mike Scianna said. “We kick it to No. 1. Then our kid who had containment on that side has a pulled hamstring.”
The Royals (2-3, 1-2) had the ball for six plays before quarterback Kemmerin Blalark tried to go deep from his own 25 and Mugnai picked it off near the sidelines. He sped straight up the field for a 50-yard TD.
“They’ve been throwing the ball deep,” Mugnai said. “We saw that on film and we knew it. We were in cover-2 zone and I just read it right away.
“It’s a good lift getting two scores like that. However we score, we had lost three in a row and we just needed to pick it up to get into the playoffs.”
Streamwood (2-3, 1-1) came right out of the locker room in the third quarter running and Strong scored on a 34-yard burst up the middle 1:08 into the third quarter. Brown scored on a 3-yard run 37 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Larkin’s Mo Jackson rushed for 65 yards on 11 carries, and the Royals had 137 rushing yards as a team, but 84 yards in penalties hurt any chance they had on offense — along with injuries.
“We’re banged up,” Scianna said. “We’re hurting all the way across the board. On our offensive line, every one of our linemen has an injury problem: a dislocated shoulder, a dislocated elbow, a rib problem, a high ankle sprain. Usually we’re pounding the ball better than that and we were getting beat up.”
Worse for Larkin, starting center Alex Schabert, the line’s leader, went out with a knee injury and his status for next week is uncertain.
For Streamwood, the outlook is entirely different now.
“We needed this for our own sanity,” Cummins said. “After the last two weeks against two very strong teams, it can get frustrating no matter how good or strong you practice.”