Lakes’ high-octane offense runs like a well-oiled machine
By Bryan Bonato For Sun-Times Media September 25, 2013 8:14PM
The Eagle Nation stands proudly behind their school’s football team, which is an overwhelming favorite to win the NSC Prairie title for the third straight year. | JOE SHUMAN~FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
SOAR LIKE AN EAGLE
Last week: Lakes 35, Antioch 0.
This Friday — 3-1 Lakes at 3-1 Wauconda
Last Friday’s win was the first shutout in the Antioch/Lakes intradistrict rivalry, which Lakes now leads 5-4, but not its most lopsided game. Antioch crushed Lakes 50-7 in 2008 en route to an undefeated regular season and a run to the 6A semifinals.
Sophomore Devyn Cedzidlo, who lines up both in the backfield and as a slot receiver, has 6 touchdowns in 4 games and is averaging a ridiculous 19.5 yards when he touches the ball on offense. He slipped on a run late in the first half against Antioch and was held out after halftime with a lower body injury.
Senior running back Cameron Johnson has recorded back-to-back 100-yard games and now has 391 yards on 48 carries and 6 scores. Five of his touchdowns have come on runs of 25 yards or more, including a 55-yarder against Antioch on the first play of the second half.
The Eagles’ offense is averaging more 400 yards per game, but it will face its toughest challenge to date this Friday at Wauconda. The teams played a 69-20 offensive thriller in 2012, won by Lakes, but this year the 3-1 Bulldogs are led by a tough, disciplined defense that has surrendered just 30 points in four weeks. That defense shut down an athletic North Chicago offense for 45 minutes on Saturday before surrendering a late touchdown drive and falling 10-3. Unfortunately for Wauconda, the Eagles are playing at a much higher level than anything they’ve seen thus far.
Lakes is also finding a defense to go with its electric offense. It held Antioch to just 77 yards on the ground and 135 overall. Since getting burned by Grayslake North for 445 yards and 49 points opening week, the defensive unit has not conceded a score while ahead by less than 35 points. While their last three opponents are a combined 3-9, the young unit appears to be jelling rapidly. They are led in tackles by a pair of juniors, Ethan Sage (19) and Dan Recker (18), and another junior, 6-4 255-pound linemen Ryan Mullen (6 tackles, 2 sacks) is an emerging star on the defensive line. Sophomore Dave Boudart leads the Eagles with 3 sacks.
Senior Mike Brey has been all over the field, averaging 12.8 yards per carry while tallying three scores as a running back spelling Johnson and Cedzidlo, recording 16 tackles and 2 sacks on defense, and averaging 38.3 yards per punt as the Eagles’ punter.
Updated: October 28, 2013 6:50AM
The 6A division has become a dynamic one for Lake County high school football, with Lakes, Grayslake North and Lake Forest all highly regarded by those who follow the sport as it’s played north of Lake-Cook Road.
Last year, all three teams were outstanding, with Lakes beating Grayslake North during the regular season, and Lake Forest beating Lakes in the regular season and also in the playoffs.
This ditty for this year? Second verse same as the first.
Through four weeks, the teams are 11-1, with the “1” being Grayslake North’s 49-39 win over Lakes on opening night. All three teams are again headed for the playoffs, and all three appear capable of matching Lake Forest’s deep playoff run from a year ago.
Next up for Lakes is Friday night’s road game against defense-minded Wauconda. The Bulldogs can’t score with the Eagles, but they play amazing team defense and allow neither points nor yards.
Against that backdrop, Lakes will present a four-pronged offensive attack that can hit you from every direction. If you stop senior running back Cameron Johnson, then sophomore wingback Devyn Cedzidlo will be beat you. Try to stop Cedzidlo, and senior QB T.J. Edwards will beat you. Try shutting down Edwards, and senior offensive weapon Mike Bray will beat you.
On defense, if you guess right, it’s 2nd-and-8. If you guess wrong, it’s six points.
“We have so many weapons, which allows us to really spread the ball, but it really starts with the offensive line,” said Edwards. “They’ve been working hard, and they make our jobs a whole lot easier. They’ve really been the stars so far.”
Edwards was picked off on his first pass attempt of the season and was just 4-of-11 for 82 yards and a touchdown in Lakes’ season opener against Grayslake North. Since then, he’s completed 20-of-27 passes for 444 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.
He also has six tackles, a sack, and an interception while seeing action at defensive back this season. He verbally committed to Western Michigan over the summer, where he is projected to play linebacker.
Lakes coach Luke Mertens, the only coach the school’s football program has ever had, thinks highly of his option QB. T.J. does a good job running our offense,” Mertens said. “He understands what we’re trying to do and understands his reads. That’s half the battle.”
The other half pretty much is deciding whether to hand off to Johnson or hand off to Cedzidlo — the latter is the younger brother of Lakes’ all-time career rushing leader Direll Clark.
“Cam has been playing hurt all year. We haven’t even had a healthy Cam yet,” said Mertens. “No one has really gotten to see him at his best. Hopefully, we can slowly and surely keep nursing him back to health, because I think he has even more in him.”
As for Cedzidlo, who is averaging 19 yards every time he touches the ball, the coach said, “Devyn plays a really dynamic position for us that Nick Battaglia played for us last year. Nick got injured and Devyn has steapped in and has done a great job. He got hurt (against Antioch), so we had to pull him out in the second half as well. We’re definitely kind of limping through.”
Then, there’s Bray, who fills in for whoever’s injured at the moment. He’s been all over the field, averaging 12.8 yards per carry while tallying three scores as a running back spelling Johnson and Cedzidlo, recording 16 tackles and 2 sacks on defense, and averaging 38.3 yards per punt as the Eagles’ punter.
“We’ve been able to spread the ball around, and it’s really paid off,” said Johnson. “We’ve been more effective passing the ball, and that’s helped open things up for the running game. We have a lot of chemistry on offense. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so we’re able to play a really solid team game. Things have really come together. We’re able to go out there and make things happen.
“It feels like there’s a snowball effect. Everything is coming together so nicely.I think that first loss taught us something, and we were able to bounce back. We’re playing so much better now than we were at the start of the season.”
Even the defense is now playing as well as it did last year, which was pretty darn good.
“Our offense can put up points. If we can stop people on defense, that’s going to make us a pretty good football team,” said senior defensive standout Nick Battaglia. “It’s nice to have an overall team. That’s what you strive for.
“We knew we had an off game against Grayslake North, and we were determined to bounce back starting the second week. We’ve been able to carry that over now into the third and fourth week.”