WOODSTOCK -- Grayslake Central junior safety John Clancy could not have picked a better time for his first pick of the season.
Clancy's 18-yard interception return less than three minutes after halftime gave the Rams a much-needed boost and the ball in Woodstock territory in Friday night's Fox Valley Conference Fox Division football game.
"I did," Clancy said when asked if he thought the play could have been a momentum-changer.
But a couple of penalties pushed Grayslake Central backward and Woodstock's offense finally broke through with touchdowns on its last three possessions in a 31-0 victory at Larry Dale Field.
"The 31 (points) I don't feel reflects the way the defense played," Grayslake Central coach Ben Ault said after his team allowed only 250 total yards.
Not after the Rams (1-3, 0-2) gave up 46 points and 458 yards in a loss to Hampshire last week. Their defense was backed up into their own territory the first six times Woodstock (2-2, 1-1) had the ball, but the only points came on freshman Pat McGrath's 25-yard field goal which barely cleared the crossbar 6:16 before halftime and Matt Swedberg's punt block and 30-yard return just 1:34 later.
Clancy, Matt Loeffl, Drew Garbett, Malcolm Reed and Alex McCully combined to force Woodstock into the field goal after a first-and-goal from the 7. Connor Daly had 2 tackles for losses and Erik Infante, Ryan Aoki, Luke Stacil and Ted McGraw also had key plays to keep the Rams in the game.
"We got back to what our defense is built on and did a better job of pursuing and getting to the ball and hitting," Ault said.
"Our defense is not a one-man defense and all the guys worked as hard as possible," Clancy said. "Without a doubt we kept our heads up. Props to my teammates because they played the first half remarkably.
"In practice this week it seemed like we had it dialed in. This week we were in it."
But two blocked punts, 4 turnovers and 13 penalties for 105 yards were too much for the Rams to overcome. They also had to make a quarterback change late this week to senior Tyler Gustke as Ault said junior starter Alex Lennartz was "a little dinged up" and did not dress.
Gustke had 13 carries for 45 yards and and was 3-for-10 passing for 33 yards. Jourden Swopes rushed for 48 yards on 7 carries and Daly ran for 44 yards on 15 carries.
"Tyler has been the backup and competed for the job throughout the summer," Ault said. "He was ready to step in and do the job and I thought he did fairly well."
The Rams had an immediate opportunity when Kacey Adams recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff but three plays later they gave it back at the Woodstock 16. That was the closest they would get to the end zone.
"I thought our defense really hustled tonight," said Woodstock coach Steve Beard. "They lined up, read their keys and hustled to the football."
Woodstock had second-half drives of 72, 64 and 61 yards capped by scoring runs of 10 yards by Mike Santucci (10 carries, 71 yards), 6 yards by Brad Bertram (15 carries, 103 yards) and 5 yards by Nick Rogers (11 carries, 58 yards). But Clancy focused on what Grayslake Central did the first 2 1-2 quarters to stay in the game.
"I'm very encouraged," Clancy said. "I think we have a bright season ahead of us and we can make the best of this."