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."

The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

Insert title of this "Bowl" game here...

Two teams. Three wins combined. December. So much for holiday cheer. The snow may provide a certain Christmas element on the lakefront Sunday. But something different has to happen for the Bears defensively. In their spirit of giving, the 49ers have allowed a league-high 76 points off their turnovers. Problem is, the Bears have just eight of them in eleven games. If that San Francisco generosity doesn't change – either by Vic Fangio's defense finally making plays despite the core of their defense missing, or by the visitors finding a way to protect the ball in those conditions after practicing in Orlando all week – it's a golden chance for the Bears to gain a smidge of momentum before becoming a factor in the division race (because they face all three other NFC North contenders in their final four games).

1. Read zone read

Colin Kaepernick has grown much more comfortable with time in Chip Kelly's offense. He had the Dolphins hanging on for dear life until the clock struck zero last week. He became just the sixth quarterback in league history to pass for three touchdowns in a game while rushing for over 100 (no, Bobby Douglass isn't one). The challenge becomes greater minus the talented inside linebacker tandem of Danny Trevathan (injury) and Jerrell Freeman (suspension). It becomes even greater if Leonard Floyd's quickness and speed is taken away as a shadowing option as he recovers from being carried off the field on a flat board two weeks ago. He's listed as questionable. So that makes it imperative for inside replacements John Timu and Nick Kwiatkowski to find a way to be instinctive while remaining disciplined enough to contain the league's best rushing quarterback by yards per attempt (8.1).

2. Don't stray from the run

Give this Niners defense without NoVorro Bowman and Eric Reid enough opportunities to be gashed, and they'll let you. Too many times the pregame formula has been for Jordan Howard to get the ball, only to find reasons not to – whether it's looking at the clock while trailing by double digits, too much traffic at the line of scrimmage or panic after injuries up front (to name a few). The 172 rushing yards per game allowed by San Francisco is the worst in eight years (Detroit).  Howard's 5.14 average gain per attempt is fifth in the NFL. Enough said.

3. Catch the ball!!!

Okay, Marquess, Josh and Deonte. Okay, Cam, Jordan and Jeremy. Okay Daniel (and/or Eddie?). We know conditions might be a little slick if it's snowing/sleeting/raining. You're supposed to be among the best in the world at what you do, even if you're down the original depth chart. Can you get your mitts on the football and hang on to it this week? Help your guy Matt out a little bit? After all, if you cut last week's nightmare in half, and maybe you're shooting for (oooh!) a fourth win Sunday, not a third.

Get set for Sunday's noon kickoff at 11 a.m. on CSN as ex-Bears Jim Miller, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Chris on "Bears Preagme Live." Then as soon as the second quarter ends, come back here to CSNChicago.com, where Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments. And finally, when the game goes final on Fox, switch immediately back to CSN as Chris and the three former Bears give you 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live press conferences and locker room interviews on "Bears Postgame Live."

Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

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USA TODAY

Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

Things are not going too well in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes saw their losing streak stretch to four games Saturday with an upsetting 98-89 home loss to Omaha.

Iowa has been a high-scoring team this season, entering the weekend with the Big Ten's No. 2 scoring offense at 85.6 points a game, but it's also been the league's worst defensive team, allowing an average of 85 points a game. And that's before the Mavericks nearly hit the century mark on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes were out-rebounded, including a big advantage for the Mavericks on the offensive boards, where they turned 19 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points. Omaha's bench outscored Iowa's bench, 37-9, and the Mavericks had a 40-26 scoring edge in the paint.

Trailing by six after allowing 53 first-half points, the Hawkeyes led for just 18 seconds over the game's final 21-plus minutes.

Peter Jok, the Big Ten's leading scorer, poured in 33 points in this one, though efficiency was not his strong suit, going 8-for-21 from the field. He added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Iowa's losing streak stands at four, the loss to Omaha linking with losses to Virginia, Memphis and Notre Dame. In the last three games, the Hawkeyes have surrendered an average of 96.7 points. In four of their five losses on the season — the heretofore unmentioned one coming against Seton Hall — opponents have scored at least 91 points.

The Hawkeyes' only wins this season have come against Kennesaw State, Savannah State and Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

Iowa has five more non-conference games — including a date with ranked in-state rival Iowa State — prior to the start of Big Ten play at the end of the month.