VERNON HILLS – Matt Weckler’s debut as DeKalb’s head coach wasn’t going well early on, but just like the expectations of the program when he came in, things changed in an instant.
After going into the locker room down, 10-0, at halftime, the Barbs (1-0) rebounded for a 25-10 victory over Vernon Hills (0-1) at Cougar Stadium on Friday. DeKalb was paced by 146 yards and three touchdowns from junior running back Dre Brown.
While it was a memorable first victory for Weckler, he was quick to deflect the attention.
“It’s huge, but more for the kids,” he said. “It’s a big win for them. That helps them believe in what they’ve been doing and all the hard work they’ve put in all summer.”
Early on, it didn’t look like the Barbs would be the ones celebrating. Their first possession ended with an interception in the back of the end zone, and when their second try began at the two-yard line, a fumble was recovered by the Cougars’ Kyle Thomas for a touchdown.
The rough start continued in the second quarter with another interception, and DeKalb didn’t help itself with a series of penalties. Shortly before halftime, Vernon Hills drove down for a 22-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
“We didn’t expect to be quite as rusty as what we saw,” Weckler said, “but at the same time, with the complexity of our offense, it took us a little while to make adjustments to be successful.”
Even after halftime, Weckler’s team hadn’t quite adjusted, and chants of “Overrated” rang from the Vernon Hills student section. When they needed it most, the Barbs’ defense stepped up.
With the Cougars in scoring position, DeKalb denied them on a fourth-down conversion attempt. Several minutes later, with Vernon Hills threatening again, the Barbs once again made a crucial play by forcing and recovering a fumble.
“Our defense was outstanding,” Weckler said. “For them to come in for their first game in our new system, I thought they did great.”
Finally, the momentum transferred to the other side of the ball. Junior running back Eriq Torrey took the handoff on first down and carried it 65 yards before being tripped up at the nine-yard line. On the next play, Brown bulldozed his way for the score.
The stout DeKalb defense forced two consecutive three-and-outs, giving its offense every opportunity to grab the lead, and the Barbs took it. Senior quarterback Jack Sauter shrugged off a rough first half to make a crucial first-down run, and Brown followed it up by busting through the Cougar defense for a 55-yard touchdown.
“He’s a big-time player,” Weckler said of Brown. “That’s a big-time play for a big-time player to make in a crunch time situation.”
After the missed extra point, the Barbs led 13-10. The defense once again gave DeKalb the ball in great position, and they proceeded to capitalize. A 24-yard carry from Sauter set up Brown for his third touchdown of the night with less than a minute remaining.
And if the game wasn’t already decided, junior defensive back Chauncie Perkins made sure of it by taking an interception 24 yards to the house.
It was quite a result for the new-look Barbs, but it was still just the first game, and Weckler suspects his team still has a long way to go.
“The progression is going to happen in practice,” he said, “and I think we’re going to gradually get better as the season goes on.”