Moskal, Soucy spark Lake Zurich defense

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Moskal, Soucy spark Lake Zurich defense

Most state championship teams feature at least one high profile player who is a Division I recruit or has All-State credentials...like Aaron Bailey, Jason Westerkamp, Matt Alviti, Matt Perez, Reilly O'Toole, John Dergo, Ryan Clifford, Jon Beutjer or Dave Schwabe.

Lake Zurich hopes to be an exception.

"We have a lot of good high school players," coach Dave Proffitt said. "We don't have a marquee player like Jack Lynn (last year's All-State linebacker who went to Minnesota).

"The word 'team' explains what Lake Zurich is all about this year. We have kids who are willing to make sacrifices for the good of the team like changing positions or play on the scout team to get the starters ready. We have 60 kids on the same page, trying to make each other better."

Lake Zurich (10-2) is riding high after upsetting two-time defending state champion Rockford Boylan 21-6 in the quarterfinals, snapping the Titans' 39-game winning streak. The Bears have allowed only 63 points, only 12 in three playoff games.

But the road to Champaign doesn't get any easier. Lake Zurich will face an even tougher test at 1 p.m. Saturday against top-seeded Glenbard West (12-0) in Glen Ellyn. It marks the third time in four years that the two schools have met in the semifinals of the Class 7A playoff.

"We have to do what we do best," Proffitt said. "Trickery at this level? Forget it. We have to run the ball, not turn it over and our kicking game has to be top-notch. We have to be able to get them off the field on third down consistently."

Proffitt said Lake Zurich has two things going for it.

"In the last four or five weeks our offense has controlled the ball and the clock. And our defense has been able to get opponents off the field on third down," the first-year coach said.

The Bears' 3-3-5 defense has been led by 6-foot-1, 225-pound junior linebacker Colton Moskal and 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior free safety Grant Soucy. Moskal is the team's leading tackler, a two-year starter. Soucy started at cornerback as a sophomore and junior and also starts at wide receiver.

Proffitt has run the 3-3-5 for seven years, including two at Cary-Grove. But he likes it for different reasons. Most coaches employ the 3-3-5 to counter spread offenses. Proffitt uses it because he doesn't have to rely on big players but smaller, quicker and more athletic players.

"I believe the 3-3-5 can give running teams as much difficulty if you scheme it right as the conventional 3-4 or 4-3. It's like having your strength up the middle on a baseball team with the catcher and shortstop and center fielder."

Moskal describes Lake Zurich's success--the Bears won a state title in 2007 and were second in 2006 and 2010 under former coach Bryan Stortz--as "a bunch of guys buying into a system and playing as one unit, all 11 on defense flying to the ball and trying to make plays."

All 11 flying to the ball? "It's all having your own responsibility and doing your job, trusting that everyone else will do their job. No one thinks about individual glory. It doesn't make a difference who makes the play as long as we get it done," Moskal said.

"Our edge is hard-nosed Lake Zurich football. We want to carry on the winning tradition. If one guy goes down, another has to step up and make plays. We have a lot of returnees. We know what a playoff atmosphere is all about. We know every game will be a dogfight."

Soucy is one of seven senior captains. That's right, seven: "We never had that before. We had an intense interview process. We had to write essays. We talked to the other players and they voted. It came down to seven, each with different styles, all contributing to the success of the team. "

The other captains are defensive linemen Jack Sweeney and Rocky Triggiano, strong safety Robert Rossdeutcher, fullback Connor Schrader, slotback Jake Stauner and offensive lineman Jerry Bauer.

"We are very selfless. We always want to play our best for each other and for others who were in the program in past years," Soucy said. "The program is about family. We spend so much time together. We are a second family to everyone. We're all willing to do anything to help each other, even outside of football. We form bonds during practice and in the off-season. We do everything as a team, not as individuals."

On the field, nobody thinks about newspaper headlines or video on YouTube or High School Lites or High School Cube. It's all about T-E-A-M.

"All those special players, the Division I prospect, have statistics and numbers," Soucy said. "But anyone can win on given day. If we go 100 percent and hold nothing back for four quarters, we can outplay any team.

"It's something unique in football. Some teams may have pure talent but if they don't go 100 percent for all four quarters, they won't get the end result they want. In the Lake Zurich program, you want are exhausted on one play and then want to come back and fight as hard as you can. You don't want to let your teammates down."

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."