With a new season and a clean slate, no head coach expects a blowout loss in his team's season opener.
Certainly not Niles North Coach Scott Smith, whose team includes 16 returning players from last year's varsity squad. But after a 41-0 defeat at the hands of Elk Grove, ranked No. 17 in Illinois by ESPN Chicago, Smith and his team will use their first loss as motivation and to prepare for next week's game.
"Elk Grove's a good team. I was a little disappointed. I thought we were pretty prepared," Smith said.
"I think we're better than the score indicates, but they just got on us really quick," he added. "We'll just go to work this week and get better."
Elk Grove came out of the gates flying, putting up 28 points in the first quarter behind senior quarterback Nick Meyer's passing attack and Elk Grove's overall team speed.
"The problem with 28 kids for us is that we can't mimic that speed in practice," Smith said. "We don't have enough quality kids that can give us a look."
Meyer connected with wide receiver Eddie Solorio for a 38-yard touchdown pass with just under a minute remaining in the first half to cap the scoring, putting Niles North down 41-0. Meyer, who was pulled after halftime for backup quarterback Dejan Basara, was 12-17 in passing for 247 yards and led six touchdown drives, two of which were rushing.
Although the Vikings' first half was anything but memorable, they rebounded for several big plays in the second half.
Backed up on the four-yard line in the third quarter, senior running back Sam Sharples burst through for 14 yards. After a holding penalty pushed the Vikings back 10 yards, first-year senior quarterback Bo Bradarich completed his longest pass of the night in a 34-yard strike to senior wide receiver Sunil Rehmani on the right sideline. However, the Vikings turned the ball over on downs after senior Myron Johnson was stopped short of the first down marker.
"We use this as an experience. Now we know we have to practice faster and be ready for game speed," linebacker George Neuhaus said.
The defense stepped up big in the fourth quarter with their second fourth-down stop of Elk Grove. Senior linebacker Zach Hess pressured Basara and forced an incomplete pass, which turned the ball over on downs to the Vikings with five minutes to go in the game.
Sam Sharples and Myron Johnson led the rushing attack for Niles, combining for 113 yards on 15 carries. Johnson's 46-yard scamper up the middle in the second quarter was Niles' longest play from scrimmage.
"On the flip side, we found some kids tonight, No. 55, [junior] Romeo Montiel, who came in and played linebacker for us," Smith said. "He did a nice job for us the time that he was in there."