Lopez recovers from fumble
Maine East halfback Christian Lopez runs for a long touchdown in the first half of Friday's home game against Chicago Amundsen. | J.Geil ~ For Sun-Times Media
PARK RIDGE — In the midst of an explosive first half, Maine East halfback Christian Lopez fumbled the ball while attempting to convert a short pass into a long touchdown. But the difficult moment was a mere blip on his breakout night.
Lopez, who already had one touchdown in Friday’s 50-0 win over visiting Amundsen, coughed up the football after galloping 32 yards down the left sideline on a screen pass. His teammates tried to lift Lopez’s spirits.
“I was putting my head down,” said Lopez, a 5-foot-7, 145-pound junior. “They (teammates) were telling me to forget about it. They said just get the next one.”
Lopez listened to the advice. On the Blue Demons’ next play from scrimmage, Lopez executed a fake reverse and dashed 21 yards into the end zone to bump the lead to 44-0 with 1:04 left in the second quarter.
Since the Blue Demons are known for frequent reverses, it was easy to sell the fake. The Blue Demon sideline helped the cause by yelling “reverse” early in the play.
“We tell them (the players on the bench) to yell that,” said Lopez of the fake call. “We hope the other team falls for it.”
After Amundsen fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Lopez received another chance on second down. He quickly darted around left end and roared into the end zone untouched.
“It was wide open,” said Lopez of the sweep. “I only had two guys to beat.”
The 28-yard touchdown put the finishing touches on a 50-0 half. Lopez, who did not play in the second half, collected 143 yards on six carries with three touchdowns.
His opening statement was the most dramatic of the three. Quarterback Alex Corey made a series of quick fakes and then handed the ball to Lopez. With the Vikings defense collapsing to the middle, Lopez faced no resistance during a 46-yard TD run around left end.
“We have three different fakes (on that play),” Lopez said. “Everyone went to the middle. They (teammates) did it for me; I didn’t have to do anything but run. I took it to the house just the way the play was designed.”
One observer walked off the field with high praise for No. 24.
“Christian just has great speed, and he works really hard,” said Maine East linebacker/fullback Mike Kuzebski. “He stepped up really well.”
Lopez knows a good portion of his success belongs to his teammates.
“It all starts with the line,” said Lopez, praising the work of Marcus Luckado, Joe Turbak, John Katris, Angel Amado, Almar Dankha and Mitch Brion. “I’m nothing without my line.”
Another key element is Corey’s orchestration.
“Alex knows exactly what to do and where to put the ball,” Lopez said. “He’s not scared of anything.”
When Corey slips the ball into Lopez’s hands, the speedster has one thing on his mind.
“Once I see daylight, I do whatever I can to get the rest of the yards,” Lopez said.
Maine East (2-0) will attempt to make it three in a row at Evanston at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Lopez said he believes the team must stay on an even keel to take down the Wildkits.
“We cannot come out cocky, and we just have to play the way we know how to play,” Lopez said.