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Rolling Meadows wins defensive duel at Fremd

Points were at a premium on Friday night when Fremd hosted Rolling Meadows in a Mid-Suburban League crossover game at Lorraine and Gill Memorial Stadium in Palatine.

Both defenses took center stage for the bulk of the evening, as Rolling Meadows gutted out a hard-earned 10-0 victory to move to 1-1 for the season. Fremd dropped to 0-2.

(left to right: Nick Rattin, Luke Bilek, Will McCabe and Jake Fleming stand arm-in-arm on the sideline prior to the coin toss

"Our defense played great," said Fremd head coach, Lou Sponsel. "They gave up three points the whole night…everyone came to play tonight."

Those three points came off a chip-shot, 20-yard field goal from Rolling Meadows kicker Yamil Roman with 4:29 left to play in the first quarter.

On Fremd's ensuing drive, the Vikings drove from their own 26 to the Mustang 9-yard line and were knocking on the door when a penalty and a pair of incompletions forced them to settle for a field goal attempt for the tie.

But even that proved to be tough sledding for Fremd, as kicker Matt Mottonen's attempt was blocked by a fierce Rolling Meadows rush.

The Mustangs looked to add to their slim 3-0 edge with just under five minutes remaining in the first half. However, down in Fremd territory, a spectacular diving interception by senior defensive back Ben Konopka off a deflected pass handed the Vikings another golden opportunity to put some points on the board.

Fremd senior Ben Konopka is a dual threat as both a receiver and a defensive back

Fremd then drove down to the Rolling Meadows 24-yard line, but a bobbled snap on 3rd-and-7 led to Mustangs senior defensive lineman Andrew Neville pouncing on the loose ball for the fumble recovery.

"Andrew is the heart and soul of our team," said Rolling Meadows head coach, Matt Mishler." "He plays both ways…and he's the guy everyone looks up to to set as an example."

The heady play from Neville preserved the shutout and helped the team maintain a 3-0 edge at intermission.

Rolling Meadows received the second-half kickoff, but ran into a Fremd defense that came out with its hair on fire. Herculean efforts by senior lineman Will McCabe and senior linebacker Ryan Kristo (3 TFL in the 3rd quarter) in the second half raised the level of intensity, quickly forcing the Mustangs to punt.

Later in the period, with Rolling Meadows still clinging to a 3-0 lead and looking for more at the Fremd 26, senior defensive back Elliott Kim (2 INTs) plucked an errant throw by Mustangs quarterback Arek Kleniuk, sending the Fremd faithful into a frenzy.

But that jubilation was short-lived. On the very next play senior quarterback Alex Harmon went down with what appeared to be a severe knee injury.

With backup quarterback Nick Rattin already out of the game with a hip pointer, third string quarterback sophomore Andrew Saxe was thrust into the fray and did not fair much better.

After a holding penalty pushed the Vikings back to their own 1-yard line, Saxe's first pass attempt was picked off by Mustangs senior safety Jack Kane who promptly returned it for the score. The touchdown gave Rolling Meadows a 10-0 cushion heading into the final stanza, a score that would eventually hold up.

"(Kane) hasn't played much on defense and we threw him into that spot this year," said Mishler. "He's been struggling in practice and we just keep telling him to stick with it…it just shows the power of staying positive in practice."

The Vikings will look for their first win of the season when they face Maine South on the road next Friday while the Mustangs will travel to Vernon Hills.

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