HARVARD – The Harvard football team did what Marengo’s first four opponents couldn’t do: hold Indians running back John Lesiak to less than 100 yards.
The Hornets defense showed its physicality, holding the area’s leading rusher to 79 yards on 23 carries and earning a 10-6 Big Northern Conference East Division win. The win marks the 11th straight win for Harvard in McHenry County’s longest rivalry.
“[Lesiak] was the part of the offense that if we could shut him down, we would control the game,” linebacker/guard Travis Heck said. “We knew we had to hit him in the backfield because if we stop him, it takes a little bit for him to get going.”
Linebackers Heck, Tate Miller, Ian Stricker, Matthew Wheeler and Sergio Ramirez were able to fly to the ball thanks to the penetration from Harvard’s defensive line rotation of ends Dakota Trebes, Trevor Kurth and Sammy Soliz, and nose tackles Juan Carbajal and Adam Freimund. The Hornets (2-3, 1-1) held Marengo (1-4, 0-3) to 136 total yards.
“Harvard was more physical than we were,” Indians coach Matt Lynch said. “Their kids wanted it more.”
Four of the Hornets’ five offensive drives in the first half started on their 20-yard line or less, but Harvard finally got field position in the second half and got points on their first two drives of the second half. Starting on their own 36, the Hornets strung together a 12-play drive where they converted three third downs, ending in a 40-yard field goal by Peyton Schneider.
On its second drive, Harvard found the end zone on a 1-yard run by Soliz that capped off a 11-play, 63 yard drive.
The drives played right into coach Tim Haak’s gameplan of holding onto the ball and keep Lesiak and the Indians offense off the field. Marengo only ran five plays in the pivotal third quarter. Chrisitan Kramer found success running the ball off-tackle, leading Harvard with 78 yards on 23 carries, with Sammy Soliz adding 67 yards on 21 carries, as Harvard totaled 160 yards on the ground.
Kramer was quick to credit the line of tackles Victor Saucedo and Anthony Milanko, guards Heck and Trebes and center Kyle Peterson.
“It all starts with the line. We couldn’t do anything without them,” Kramer said. “Our quarterback Peyton Schneider made the right checks and told Coach that outside would work.”
Marengo had the field position in the first half, but penalties killed Marengo’s chance of scoring. Starting on Harvard’s 28, the Indians got to the 1-yard line after eight plays, but a false start and block in the back made Marengo settle for a 32-yard field goal attempt that came up short.
“If you don’t score from the 1-yard line, you don’t deserve to win the football game,” Lynch said.
The Indians finally found the end zone in the fourth quarter on a 21-yard run by Lesiak, his longest of the day, on a drive that took five plays and 34 yards. Marengo had a final chance, getting the ball on their own 20 with 1:50 left in the game after forcing a three-and-out. Quarterback Christopher Lopez hit receiver Justin Velasquez for a 36-yard reception to get the ball to their 41-yard line, but three straight incompletions ended the rally.
The Hornets lead the rivalry 62-27-4.