Graves comes up with dazzling debut
Mundelein running back Emanuel Jones breaks free during Friday's season opener at Wheeling. He finished with 141 rushing yards. | Darrell Harmon~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 1, 2012 6:20AM
Grace under pressure is rarely associated with a freshman quarterback who starts at the varsity level. Yet Gavin Graves has that — and so much more — as he becomes the face of the Mundelein High School football team.
Graves completed 18 of 30 passes for 179 yards in his debut on Friday night. Graves nearly led his team to victory, but a last-second field goal by Juan Gonzalez allowed host Wheeling to escape with a 23-22 decision.
First-year coach George Kaider is thrilled to have Graves in his program.
“Gavin is a pretty impressive kid,” Kaider said. “He has an iron will. I call him my young gun, because he does not fold under pressure.”
Graves kept his cool despite a fierce Wheeling pass rush.
“Gavin has great poise in the pocket,” the coach noted. “Even though he was under pressure, his ability to avoid the rush and make the play is pretty remarkable.”
Look for the 6-foot, 175-pound Graves to make plenty of big plays over the next four seasons.
“It’s a blessing to our football program to have someone of his ability for four years,” Kaider said. “I’m thrilled with his leadership.”
His favorite target against the Wildcats was Chance Lindsey. The 6-0, 160-pound junior caught nine passes for 117 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
“Chance is a very explosive player with a high motor,” Kaider said. “He never stops working.”
The other offensive stalwart was running back Emanuel Jones. The 5-11, 190-pound junior rolled up 141 yards on 17 carries, highlighted by a 92-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“He has great leg drive, and he has that extra gear that he showed on his long run,” Kaider said.
The 92-yard journey began with a kickout block by running back Nick Devito. Jones seized the opening and never looked back.
“Emanuel cut back against the grain just like we teach our runners,” Kaider related. “He ran right past the defense.”
Amazing play: Lindsey created a highlight-reel play on the other side of the ball. The defensive back collected an interception that Kaider termed “one of the greatest interceptions I’ve seen in high school football.”
Lindsey was positioned behind a Wheeling receiver when he leaped over the Wildcat player to grab the ball.
“He managed to jump over the guy without interfering with him,” Kaider added.
The coach also raved about the work of 6-3, 170-pound safety Dillon O’Donoghue.
“I knew Dillon was a good player, but I was surprised by how physical he was,” said Kaider, adding O’Donoghue led the club in tackles on Friday night.
Tough finish: The Mustangs led 22-20 late in the fourth quarter. With the Wildcats pinned back deep in their own territory, Kaider figured his club could make the plays needed to win.
“But they (Wildcats) big-played us,” Kaider said. “Most of their scoring was a result of big plays.”
Gonzalez hit a game-winning 20-yard field goal with six seconds remaining. Understandably, the Mustangs were not a happy bunch after the game.
“The kids felt like they could’ve beaten that team,” Kaider said.
“It’s my job as a coach to show them how far they’ve come in the last six months.”
As the Mustangs prepare to host defending IHSA Class 6A state champion Prairie Ridge on Friday (7:30 p.m.), Kaider hopes to keep the focus squarely on his own team.
“We just want to get better and not worry about Prairie Ridge,” he said. “When we leave the field, do we respect each other and does Prairie Ridge respect us? That’s all I care about.”~ ~.