ALGONQUIN – Jacobs quarterback Bret Mooney surveyed McHenry’s defensive set and knew where he was supposed to throw.
There was a slight issue when the shotgun snap arrived near Mooney’s left ankle and he had to look down and snag the ball.
“Honestly, last year I probably would have panicked a little bit,” Mooney said. “And I would have either looked to see if someone was coming or just ran to get out of there.”
Not this season. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior secured the ball, set his feet, sneaked a quick peek at the safety and let it fly with confidence. Down the right sideline, streaking wide receiver Hunter Williams hauled in the pass for a 36-yard touchdown in the Golden Eagles’ 42-14 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division victory last week.
Jacobs (2-2 overall, 2-0 FVC Valley) has back-to-back wins after losses to Barrington (4-0) and St. Charles East (3-1). The passing offense is a big reason, as Mooney is 32 of 41 for 295 yards and seven touchdowns, with zero interceptions, in the Eagles’ two victories.
Woodstock (0-4) will have to deal with the area’s hottest passing offense in an FVC crossover game at 7:15 p.m. Friday at Jacobs Athletic Field.
“[Mooney] has been on fire,” Eagles coach Bill Mitz said. “Our line is getting better at protecting him. It’s taken time, and those receivers all go to the ball so well for us.”
Mooney was productive last season, throwing for 2,046 yards with 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He worked out with Top Gun Inc., which does 7-on-7 training, and also attended former NFL quarterback Jeff Christensen’s Throw It Deep Academy for three months in the offseason.
“That got my footwork 100 percent better,” Mooney said. “Last year, my feet would be stagnant. This year, my feet are moving a lot better. That helps me elude the rush, too.”
Mitz has called more designed runs for Mooney, who leads the team with 265 rushing yards.
“Andy Farrissey’s done a real good job working with him with his reads as quarterback coach,” Mitz said. “His footwork’s a lot better. He doesn’t look as stiff at the hips. He [has] a whole different body than last year. He’s running the ball this year.”
Mooney said the offensive line’s protection was the best it has been against McHenry, which was a huge factor in his 13 of 14 passing. Also, more playmakers have emerged in receivers Camden McLain and Ryan Sargent, and with speedy running back Josh Walker.
“Last game, we showed we have more receivers, not just me,” Williams said. “If Camden, Ryan and me have a good game, I don’t think we can be stopped. They can’t cover three good receivers on every play. As long as our defense does its job, we know we’re going to put points on the board if we keep doing what we’re doing.”
McLain, a 6-1 junior, had five receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns last week. Mitz called him the Eagles’ most improved player.
“We’ve gotten better and we have more chemistry and Bret’s throwing the ball real well,” McLain said. “He’s real calm and collected [in the huddle] and leads us really well. If we need any help with anything, he helps us. He’s a really good part of the offense.”
Mooney, whose father Keith played linebacker at Purdue, has an offer from NCAA Division I Colgate. Although the Eagles have other business at the moment, Mitz is making more contacts and expects more offers for his quarterback.
“We’re just happy we’ve got him right now,” Mitz said. “Whoever gets him [in college] is going to get a gem.”