Goss: With Aaron Bailey sidelined, Tom Fuessel still shines
September 29, 2012 4:24PM
Bolingbrook runningback John Howard gives a thumbs up as he is taken away on a stretcher after being injured during a football game against Lincoln-Way East in Frankfort Friday, September 28, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 1, 2012 6:29AM
Talk about deja vu all over again.
A month ago, I had the good fortune of being on the sideline at Providence for the ballyhooed opener against Joliet Catholic.
The entire state — make that the nation, thanks to ESPNU — was eager to see Joliet Catholic wingback Ty Isaac, who is headed to USC.
Isaac got off to a good start, rushing for 66 yards in seven carries and scoring a touchdown. But late in the first quarter, he was tackled and came down on his right shoulder. He missed the rest of the game and still, on this Week 6 weekend, is battling the effects of the shoulder injury.
Providence deserved to win and indeed went on to record a 40-34 victory. But fans of both sides were left wondering what might have happened had a healthy Isaac been on the field the entire night.
Which brings us to Friday night in Frankfort, the showdown between Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East. What set this one apart from other great games were the two quarterbacks — Bolingbrook’s Aaron Bailey, who is committed to Illinois, and East’s Tom Fuessel, who will play at Northern Illinois.
Both have strong arms and are accurate. In addition, they have to be two of the best running quarterbacks anywhere, Bailey on the option, Fuessel from the spread.
So what happened? Much as we were deprived of seeing Isaac in the season opener, Bailey exited very early Friday with what Raiders coach John Ivlow confirmed Saturday is a right knee sprain. He likely will miss a week or two.
The injury occurred on the second play from scrimmage, while Bailey was making one of his patented special plays. He was five yards downfield on an option play. Just as a tackler arrived, Bailey had the wherewithal to pitch the ball to Omar Stover, who took it the final 84 yards to complete the 89-yard touchdown and give the Raiders a 7-0 lead.
After that, it was all Fuessel. Man, can he motor. He scored on runs of 30, 17 and 11 yards and threw a 33-yard scoring pass to Nick Colangelo in the Griffins’ 42-19 SouthWest Suburban Blue victory.
Coach Rob Zvonar runs a class program at East, and his and Fuessel’s postgame comments are further evidence.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to him (Bailey) and the other kid (running back John Howard) and their families,” Zvonar said before discussing the game.
Howard’s foot was turned in a perpedicular direction after he was tackled on the back end of a 36-yard pass play late in the first quarter. He was taken off on a stretcher and away in an ambulance.
Fuessel enjoyed the night but not what happened to Bolingbrook injury-wise.
With the anticipated duel against Bailey having gone by the board, Fuessel said, “He’s a great player and a great kid. I hope he heals and shines the rest of the season.”
I hope so, too. We may use the “great kid” description too often, but Bailey is every bit of that.
Fuessel refused to take his foot off the gas even with his counterpart sidelined, leading the Griffins to a 35-7 halftime lead. He made sure the slate remains clean — the Griffins have never lost to Bolingbrook on their home field.
“Even without Bailey, Bolingbrook has a great team,” Fuessel said. “They have great players on that team.”
And how special is Fuessel?
“I’ve never coached one like him,” East offensive coordinator Joel Pallissard said. “You think back and we’ve had a lot of good quarterbacks who were unique in their own way. But he’s the first gazelle I’ve had.
“He’s a great kid, he works very hard and he has a real attention to detail. That’s just the type of kid he is.”
While East remains unbeaten and continues to roll toward a high seed in the Class 7A playoffs, you keep your fingers crossed Bailey is not out for long. You can’t help but wonder what would have transpired Friday had he not gotten hurt.
“You take an All-American out, and yeah, it helps a bit,” Zvonar said.
Bolingbrook, the defending 8A state champion and a very good team regardless, needs No. 15 calling signals if the Raiders are to make a run at repeating.
“No doubt it would have been the same for us had Tom (Fuessel) gone out,” Zvonar said.
Given what Zvonar and the East coaching staff thinks of Fuessel, that’s about as high a compliment as he could pay an opponent.