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New way of doing things suits Larkin just fine

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Picking one story line from Saturday's annual Town Jug game isn't easy, but what would you expect from a rivalry as storied and complex as this one?

In the end, the discussion of who wasn't at Memorial Field on Saturday might loom largest in the wake of Larkin's 15-6 triumph.

Elgin senior Jamal Cook, who came into the weekend as the area's second-leading receiver, missed the game for personal reasons. The Maroons planned on having the talented Cook in their lineup, and they nearly pulled off their first Town Jug win in seven years despite his absence.

Whether his presence would have been enough to change the outcome will be left to local lore.

As for the group of players who were on the field, a 5-foot-8, 150-pound junior running back named Jalen Williams made arguably the biggest impact.

Williams didn't score a touchdown, but he did carry the ball 21 times for 158 yards, good for an average of 7.5 yards per carry. That's exactly what the Royals needed to execute their game plan of controlling possession and keeping the ball away from Elgin's quick-strike offense.

When asked to assess Williams' play, Larkin coach Matt Gehrig was blunt.

"Simply put, he ran hard," Gehrig said.

Gehrig made a point to emphasize the "he ran hard" part of the comment. That sentiment can be translated to the entire Royals team, which didn't enter the year with many expectations, but still has plenty to play for when it travels to Waubonsie Valley next week. Larkin is 4-4 on the season and can become playoff eligible if it beats the Warriors on Friday.

If anything, Williams' workman-like effort fits in perfectly with the attitude Gehrig and his coaching staff have developed since taking over the varsity program this summer.
Instead of relying on the offensive-minded approach that has dominated at Larkin for years, the Royals are trying to win with ball control and defense.

Saturday's game was somewhat of a referendum on that decision as Larkin took on Dave Bierman, its former coach. Bierman left Larkin last year to take over as the coach at his alma mater, and with it brought his high-octane spread offense to the east side of Elgin.

Would the remade Royals be able to beat an Elgin team that reflected what Larkin was just a year ago when former quarterback Cam Kinley was shattering passing records and helping the Royals score in bunches?

The answer was a resounding yes.

Elgin did outgain Larkin 260-218 in total yardage. However, the Royals stepped up when it mattered most, limiting the Maroons to only 85 yards in the second half.

Larkin was the beneficiary of five Elgin turnovers, but at times it seemed as if the Royals' offense was their best defense. With every tackle broken by Williams for a first down in the decisive second half, Larkin was engaging in an old-fashioned game of keep away.
To be fair, Elgin's defense continued to show considerable improvement. After allowing no fewer than 41 points in the first six weeks of the season, the Maroons have now held their past two opponents in check.

But that wasn't enough, and afterward Elgin had nothing but good things to say about the way Larkin executed its game plan.

"Our defense stepped up big today, just like last week," Elgin quarterback Tom Roth said. "We stressed filling gaps and attacking the ball carrier, but No. 2 over there, Jalen, he's a hard runner and he's tough to take down. That's basically it."

Added Bierman: "We had a lot of mistakes. But you've got to give coach Gehrig a lot of credit. Those kids played hard. In the third quarter, I don't know what their time of possession was, but they had the ball for a long time in the third quarter."
So another chapter in the Town Jug series is complete, and like every year, there will be plenty to discuss.

I'll leave the last word this time to the victorious coach, who isn't about to take all the credit for his team's success.

"I'm happy that the guys were successful today against their crosstown rival," Gehrig said. "I give my defensive coaches Adrian Barbera and Pat Murphy just so much credit. They are really outstanding coaches, and we would be nowhere near four wins without them."

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This page contains a single entry by published on October 18, 2008 9:04 PM.

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