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The first time David Proffitt noticed Jake Stauner was during the 2010 IHSA Class 7A football playoffs.
Proffitt — then the Lake Zurich football team’s defensive coordinator — was charged with preparing the Bears’ defense for a shot at a state title. The scrawny sophomore on the other side of the ball kept trying to trip him up.
“We were in the playoffs and (Stauner) was a scout-team quarterback,” Proffitt said. “He did a real good job of running the other team’s offense against our first-team defense. He really got my attention at that time.”
Two years later, Proffitt is the head coach of a Lake Zurich team that went to the state semifinals a year ago. And the Bears’ starting quarterback spot? That belongs to Stauner, who has his own scout-team memories.
“I just remember (the defense) being so much bigger at the time,” the 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior said. “You could see how big and fast they were. You could take that and know how hard they worked to get where they were.”
Stauner’s rise to varsity starter is no accident. He’s been working toward this season since he got to Lake Zurich.
He played quarterback as a freshman and sophomore, learning the basic principles of the Bears’ triple-option offense. When he made varsity as a junior, then-starter Zach Till was blocking his path to the QB spot. So Stauner spent the year observing Till while contributing at running back and wide receiver.
It was a move that gave him a better understanding of how to run the option.
“We pass, but not a ton. As a quarterback, we have to run. We have to move,” said Stauner, who boasts a 4.56 40-yard dash. “You have to know basically what everyone is doing on the offense. When you play quarterback, it’s not that you’re going to block one guy or you’re going to run one route. You have to look at the entire picture each play and know where everyone is going to be.”
Still, the year away from being under center stunted Stauner’s growth as a passer. He spent the offseason trying to make up for lost time, working with a throwing coach and gathering his receivers for more than a few 6:30 a.m. practices.
“Jake would call the receivers and we’d go out and work on routes,” senior receiver Steven Walcott said. “He’s worked hard to get where he is today.”
That includes developing his leadership muscles.
One of seven team captains for Lake Zurich, Stauner said he prefers to lead by example. His teammates laud his positive attitude and ability to provide struggling players with a quick confidence boost. Junior running back Sean Lynch recalled one nightmare practice in which he couldn’t seem to hang onto the football.
“Jake came over and kind of pulled me over to the side,” Lynch said. “He just told me to stick with it, finish the day strong and worry about the next play. He really kept me encouraged.”
Like any first-year starter, Stauner has had his peaks and valleys.
In Week 1, he guided Lake Zurich (1-1) to a 21-0 win over Fremd by rushing 11 times for 97 yards and hitting on four of five pass attempts. That was followed by a regression
in Week 2, as the Bears struggled to complete even routine passes and couldn’t stage a comeback during a 21-6 loss to Cary-Grove.
Proffitt has seen enough of Stauner to know he doesn’t have to be worried.
“He’s worked extremely hard,” Proffitt said. “He’s not there yet because of that year off (from playing quarterback). I feel like he’s got nowhere to go but up.” ~.