Trust and a little extra practice are the ingredients that Vernon Hills seniors Jack Barszcz and Thomas Monken use to develop their unique chemistry.
Barszcz and Monken play exclusively on offense, so when the Cougars break up for defensive drills in practice, they go off by themselves.
“We work on lofting the ball into the end zone,” Monken said. “We practice those patterns at least 20 times a practice.”
The specialized work was evident during Vernon Hills’ 23-20 loss to Deerfield on Friday, as Barszcz and Monken helped keep the Cougars in contention until the final minute of the fourth quarter.
Monken completed 24 of 42 passes for 197 yards and all three Vernon Hills touchdowns, with Barszcz catching two of those scoring passes. He had eight catches in all.
Along with the extra practice, Barszcz said he and Monken have gotten to know each other‘s strengths very well. They generally know what is going to happen on the field.
“It’s all about trust,” Barszcz said. “I know when I run my route he’s going to find me and put the ball where I’ll catch it.”
“I loft the ball to him, and I know he can get it,” Monken added.
At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Barszcz uses his size to his advantage. Barszcz said he has a clear edge when Monken throws the ball toward his extended fingertips.
“When he puts it up there, I know defenders won’t reach it,” Barszcz said.
“I love it,” Monken added. “I’ve never thrown to anyone so tall. I know he’s going to catch it.”
After falling behind Deerfield 16-0 in the first half, the Cougars (4-3, 1-2 Central Suburban North) reduced the deficit to 16-13 in the third quarter on a 22-yard pass from Monken to Barszcz and a 6-yard toss to Justin Morris.
After Deerfield went ahead 23-13 midway through the fourth quarter, Barszcz caught a 9-yard toss from Monken to make the score 23-20.
Vernon Hills will host Maine West (6-1, 3-0 CSL North) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Steve Sadin is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.