LEMONT – It’s difficult to say if Lemont is better on offense or on defense after the Indians’ 27-0 romp over Chatham Glenwood in their opening-round Class 6A playoff game on Saturday evening.
Statistically and stylistically, the Indians look good either way. When you pile up 248 yards and score three touchdowns in a first half when you only snap the ball 27 times, the efficiency of your offense is unquestioned.
When you hold a Titans squad desperate to get on the board to only five yards in the second half – one on the ground and four in the air – the tenacity of your defense is unquestioned.
Perhaps that’s why, after a long pause when asked just how good Lemont is, Glenwood coach Dan Rourke said through gritted teeth, “They’re probably gonna win state this year. I’ll say that.”
First, the Indians (9-1) will have to deal with Crete-Monee (8-2), which pounded Rock Island, 40-0, on Friday night. The second-round game will be at Lemont with a quarterfinal berth on the line.
Indians quarterback Austin Nagel, a junior, remembers the last time Lemont played Crete-Monee, when Laquon Treadwell was on the Warriors and dominating both sides of the ball and special teams as well. The Warriors scored a 28-27 victory in the 2012 Class 6A semifinal and captured the state title the following week.
“I was in eighth grade then,” Nagel said. “I thought we got robbed.”
He won’t have to deal with Treadwell, who is long gone and stars for Mississippi. But Crete-Monee still is a formidable foe.
Then again, so is Lemont, starting with Nagel, who threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns in a 10 of 13 performance. Seven of his completions – including touchdowns of 36 and 5 yards – were to Jeremy Fejedelem, who also intercepted one pass by Glenwood’s Cole Hembrough and had a second interception nullified by one of Lemont’s 15 penalties.
“As time had gone on, he’s taken more ownership,” Lemont coach Bret Kooi said.
Nagel’s collaborations with Fejedelem border on the surreal at times. One was the 74-yard hookup that Fejedelem took to the Glenwood 11 to set up Lemont’s first score, a 1-yard Nagel plunge.
“He just gets open for me,” Nagel said. “On a lot of big plays, we set it up for him. We need those on third-and-long and he gets it done for us.”
Fejedelem’s seven receptions accounted for 141 of Lemont’s 405 yards. He also ran the ball twice for 10 yards. Perhaps the most amazing thing was how Hembrough kept throwing in his direction.
“We gave up big plays to one player (Fejedelem),” said Rourke, whose team finished 5-5. “And they just got tired. Lemont’s got a nice football team. They’re very well prepared.”
Jake Kirkman (31 carries, 168 yards) added a 5-yard touchdown run for the Indians to cap a 14-play drive that opened the second half and ran 9:02 off the clock. Yes, the Indians can also chew the clock.
“That was huge, no doubt,” Kooi said. “Defense holds the fort at the beginning when we don’t get a lot of touches, but that drive was huge.”