Rarely has a Cary-Grove football team been beaten in the postseason as thoroughly as Nazareth Academy handled the Trojans throughout a 24-0 Class 6A second-round playoff victory in LaGrange Park Saturday.
It was a victory in every phase of the game for the bigger, more physical Roadrunners (10-1), who advanced to the second quarterfinal in school history by imposing their will upon the overmatched Trojans (8-3).
Cary-Grove was bested in the trenches on both sides of the ball, which led to the third-largest margin of defeat in the program's 47-game postseason history. It was the first time a Cary-Grove team has ever been shut out in the playoffs.
"They were physical," said Cary-Grove senior Matt Gerebizza, who played defensive end and offensive tackle. "I thought in the beginning defensively that we matched their physicality, but on offense they were just a step ahead of us. We kept trying to come back. We kept fighting every play. It's just today was their day."
The East Suburban Catholic Conference co-champs rushed for 164 yards on the strength of 141 yards on 32 clock-eating carries by junior Joshua Moore, but all 3 of their touchdowns were the result of passes by senior quarterback Sam Poulos. He completed 6-of-9 attempts for 83 yards, the bulk of that yardage coming on his first toss of the day.
After the Cary-Grove offense went three-and-out on the game's opening possession, Poulos connected with Aeneas White on a post pattern even though the Trojans were in Cover 3. That 56-yard scoring strike with 8:51 left in the first quarter put the Roadrunners ahead to stay.
They added a 35-yard field goal in the second quarter from Matt Ramsey but had to settle for a 10-0 halftime lead when the Cary-Grove defense stuffed White on fourth-and-2 at the Trojans' 21-yard line with 50 seconds left in the first half.
Nazareth held the Cary-Grove triple option to 54 yards rushing in the first half, but the Trojans felt they made the necessary adjustments to rush more competitively in the third quarter. The Roadrunners never game them the chance.
Nazareth took the opening drive of the third quarter and marched it right through the heart of a Cary-Grove defense that had been allowing just 83 yards rushing per game. Moore carried 12 times on a mammoth 18-play, 61-yard scoring drive that ate up the first 9:48 of the third quarter.
Poulos capped the drive by rolling out to his right and hitting receiver Sean Maloney for a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 12. Ramsey's kick made it 17-0.
"That deflated us," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "We felt like if we had gotten a stop there and gotten the ball, we made some adjustments at halftime that would helps us be OK. But when we got the ball back we were down by three scores and that kind of changes the way you approach things on offense."
Nazareth added the dagger with 10:14 left in the game when Poulous connected with senior Kevin Curtain for a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-0.
Cary-Grove Junior quarterback Quinn Baker was limited to 79 yards rushing on 17 attempts. ESCC defensive player of the year, Nazareth's Kalium Ewing, spied Baker throughout the game and made 10 total tackles, most of them against Baker.
"We wanted to show the whole state how our defense is," Ewing said. "We wanted to show them we're not playing."
Nazareth outgained the Trojans 247 yards to 106. It marked the first time a Cary-Grove offense was shut out since 2003, but it didn't diminish the accomplishment of the 2011 Trojans, who extended the program's streak of reaching at least a second-round playoff game to eight seasons.
"I told the kids there's only one state champion," Seaburg said. "There are so many teams that end the season disappointed. When we look back on this season, we played in a lot of very big games this year. We won a couple of them, we lost a couple of them. But being in those games is part of it. We'd like to have won more than we did, but we didn't."