MT. PROSPECT, Ill. (BVM) – Prospect senior quarterback Brad Vierneisel and the Knights found themselves in a precarious situation in Week 4 of the Illinois high school football season. After jumping out to a 34-20 halftime lead over Maine South, Prospect trailed by seven points with about three minutes remaining. To make matters worse, the Knights were without their three-star wide receiver and Northwestern commit Frank Covey, who exited the game in the first quarter with an injury.
“He (Vierneisel) drove us the whole field and then ended up scoring the two-point conversion to take us up,” Prospect head coach Dan DeBoeuf said. “Just to see his composure and confidence in himself during that time was really impressive.”
What a play by Prospect QB Brad Vierneisel! Knights are down 1 and going for 2 with :44 left pic.twitter.com/E9gFDAGnyj
— Michael O'Brien (@michaelsobrien) September 16, 2022
Vierneisel sealed the dramatic, 42-41 win by throwing a touchdown before converting on a diving two-point attempt with 44 seconds left to keep the Knights undefeated. It’s Vierneisel’s favorite moment of Prospect’s season thus far, and a night that earned him recognition from the Chicago Bears.
Wow. Vierneisel leaps into the end zone for the conversion. Prospect leads Maine South 42-41 with :44 left pic.twitter.com/q4g3BAt5pT
— Michael O'Brien (@michaelsobrien) September 16, 2022
The impressive performance – in which he threw for 441 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner – led to Vierneisel being named the Chicago Bears High School All-Star for Week 4, but the senior QB sees it as a team award.
“It was honestly crazy, like I didn’t even know I was a candidate until people started sending me it,” Vierneisel said. “But it really wasn’t all me that won it. Sure, I’m the one getting all the recognition but my line played great, my receivers made plays so there was a lot more that went into it other than me just throwing the ball.”
— Chicago Bears (@BearsOutreach) September 22, 2022
Vierneisel’s selflessness is refreshing and it’s part of the reason he’s even playing quarterback this season in the first place.
Covey played quarterback for the Knights last season while Vierneisel’s athleticism was utilized at wide receiver as Prospect went 10-3 before falling in the IHSA state semifinals to St. Rita (Chicago). But with Covey headed to play wide receiver next year at Northwestern, DeBoeuf made the decision to move Vierneisel to QB this offseason.
It’s a position that Vierneisel has relatively limited experience at (he played it during his freshman season) but one that he cherishes to the opportunity to play.
“We were just messing around with some different things and then we felt like it gave us the best opportunity to have Brad back there being a great athlete, but also a great thrower, and get the ball to some of our other guys,” DeBoeuf said of the positional transition. “We felt like it was what was best for our program at the time and so far, it’s looking like it’s the right choice.”
“I really don’t have a preference; I have fun at both (positions),” Vierneisel said. “But I feel like at quarterback, I’m able to take more control and ownership and I feel like I’m a better quarterback than receiver.”
It didn’t take long for DeBoeuf’s decision to prove to be a good one.
In the Knights’ season-opening win over Sandburg, Vierneisel broke Prospect’s single-game passing record by 56 yards. His 452 yards and seven total touchdowns (six passing) to go along with zero interceptions set the tone for what would begin a dominant run to start the season for an offense that’s averaging 41 points per game.
Even after Prospect’s lone hiccup on the season – a 41-34 overtime loss to Hersey (8-0) in Week 5 – the offensive fireworks haven’t stopped.
It took just one half of work for Vierneisel to put the game out of reach on Friday night. Playing just the first half, the senior QB was 13-of-14 for 165 yards and three touchdowns as the Knights led 30-0 at halftime before cruising to a 44-12 win over Wheeling (3-5) to improve to 7-1 on the season.
For the season, Vierneisel is completing 68 percent of his passes for 2,446 yards and 33 touchdowns while adding another 360 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. It’s not bad for someone who was catching passes at wide receiver last year.
“I think he’s a legitimate candidate for player of the year in the state,” DeBoeuf said of Vierneisel. “I think the thing that sticks out the most is his ability to stay calm. He’s a very calm guy. Whether things are good or bad or anywhere in between, you’re kind of always getting the same Brad which really helps our offense as a whole that he’s such a calm, collected leader for us.
“Even over the summer, we realized this could be a good thing.”
It’s DeBoeuf’s fifth year as Prospect’s head football coach and the program has undergone a steady increase in success culminating in last season’s semifinals appearance. With the Hersey loss bringing the Knights “back in check,” an explosive offense and playoff experience, Vierneisel believes this is the season for Prospect to break through.
“Last year with our team making it to the semifinals, I feel like our ceiling is to play for a state championship and win,” Vierneisel said. “We have the ability to do so with the pieces on offense and defense. If everyone can stay healthy, we can definitely achieve that goal.”
“That’s definitely the next step for our program; we’re right there, we’re right on the verge of being able to play for state titles and that’s definitely our goal,” DeBoeuf said.