Record-setting Prairie Ridge QB overwhelms Harlem in IHSA football quarterfinal

Matt Trowbridge
Rockford Register Star
Harlem's Jahmani Muhammad finds an opening and gains a few yards on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Harlem High School in Machesney Park.

MACHESNEY PARK — Tyler Vasey broke his collarbone and didn’t get to play in a one-point loss at Harlem his sophomore season.

“That was a big bummer,” he said.

He also got hurt at the end of his junior season. But the Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge quarterback is making up for lost time in a big way as a senior.

Vasey continued his incredible playoff run Saturday by smashing the state single-season rushing record in a 69-28 victory over Harlem. He tied another record and threatened two others by rushing for 481 yards and eight touchdowns.

Only Joliet Catholic’s Ty Isaac (515 yards in the 2011 Class 5A state title game) has run for more yards in an IHSA playoff game. His eight touchdowns tied the record set by Lockport’s Craig Duppong in a 1998 first-round game in Class 6A and finished two points shy of the scoring record set by Duppong, who also had a two-point conversion in that game.

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“It’s pretty fun, not just for me, but for the entire team,” said Vasey, who now has 3,595 yards rushing in 12 games, well ahead of the old mark of 3,325 by Lexington’s T.J. Stinde in 14 games in 2009. “I couldn’t to this without everybody, my coaches, my offensive line, my running backs block a lot. I really do appreciate every single one of them.”

Vasey now has 1,152 yards just in his three playoff games for Prairie Ridge (11-1). He completely frustrated Harlem (8-4), which was playing in its first-ever third-round playoff game and came in with one objective: Stop Vasey.

The Huskies never even slowed him down. He scored on runs of 44, 75, 9, 44, 67, 32, 10 and 40 yards. He also threw a 29-yard pass on his only attempt, only his 14th completed pass of the season.

“He was definitely more shifty than we thought he would be,” Harlem senior middle linebacker Ben Larsen said. “We tried to prepare for his speed, but at the end of the day we weren’t able to prepare enough.

“I am still proud of our team this year and how we performed,” Larsen added, “but it is hard to swallow that pill when, even though we definitely did make history for our school, that we have to go out. Especially because it was just one guy.”

Harlem's Austin Redmon finds an opening against Prairie Ridge on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Harlem High School in Machesney Park.

Harlem trailed 21-0 before DeAndre Young returned a kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown. But Young, a key player on both offense and defense, tweaked his leg and left the game midway through the second quarter. Harlem already trailed 28-7 by then.

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Quarterback Austin Redmon ran for two short touchdowns and sophomore Jahmani Muhammad, the NIC-10’s leading rusher, gained 127 yards as Harlem got as close as 48-28. But the Huskies could never slow Prairie Ridge. The Wolves scored every time they got the ball until their final kneel downs except when Harlem swarmed Vasey on fourth-and-2 from the 6 late in the first half with Prairie Ridge already ahead 41-14.

The Wolves finished with 612 yards rushing. And Vasey now has 49 rushing TDs, two short of the single-season record by John Dergo of Morris in 2005.

“We knew what they were going to do, but it’s tough when you can’t stop the guy,” Harlem coach Bob Moynihan said. “We literally could not stop him.”

“Coach told us what we needed to expect,” senior nose tackle Keshawn Harrington-McKinney said. “We just couldn’t execute.”

So what’s next for Harlem, a team that went undefeated for the first time ever during the COVID season at 6-0, won it’s first playoff game in a decade last year and now reached the third round for the first time?

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“Get in the weight room and become even more of a family,” Harrington-McKinney said. “I have no doubt in my mind that these guys I played with this year who were underclassmen are going to make it farther than what we did.”

Harlem started only four seniors on offense and four on defense.

“The answer is in that weight room,” Moynihan said. “We had some guys who tailed off here at the end, who were living off their laurels maybe a little bit. The other kids have to see that. They have to understand that today they (Prairie Ridge) were more physical than we were. That’s typically not the case. That hurts us. But we have something coming back.”

Matt Trowbridge has covered sports for the Rockford Register Star for over 30 years, after previous stints in North Dakota, Delaware, Vermont and three years covering the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.