With Toledo-bound offensive tackle Boston Matthews back in the starting lineup, Crystal Lake South pounded host Grayslake Central 42-0 in a Fox Valley Conference crossover at William Eiserman Stadium Friday night.
Matthews (6-foot-4, 265 pounds), who hasn't played since Week 2 due to a broken bone and partially torn ligament in his ankle, helped the Gators dominate the line of scrimmage. The main beneficiary was senior running back Zevin Clark, who rushed for 183 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 15 carries.
"There was one play in the third quarter when we were driving and wanted to pound the football and eat some clock that Boston blocked their nose guard, a big dude, from the 15-yard line into the end zone," CL South coach Chuck Ahsmann said. "Just phenomenal. Our offensive line did a really great job."
The victory was the fifth straight for the Gators following a 1-3 start and guaranteed them a playoff berth for the 12th straight season.
The CL South defense dominated. Not only did Crystal Lake South (6-3) limit Grayslake Central (2-7) to 92 rushing yards, senior Dennis Gardeck stripped a Rams running back in the first quarter and returned the fumble 75 yards for a touchdown that staked his team to a 22-0 lead.
Gardeck led the Gators with 9 tackles, 2 for losses. Nose guard Nick Amren added 8 tackles and 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior Josh Smith contributed 7 tackles, 2 for losses.
"We played much better defense today," said Ahsmann, who called plays for a unit that recorded its first shutout of the season. "I think the way we played we really honored Tony Pauls."
Pauls, an engineering student at the University of Illinois who played for CL South's 2008 state semifinal team, died last Saturday in a hit-and-run accident in Champaign. The Gators paid tribute by wearing stickers on their helmets with Paul's initials and his former CL South jersey number, 46.