Not since Week 3 had fullback Kyle Norberg, quarterback Quinn Baker and running back Ryan Mahoney been on the field running the triple option for Cary-Grove at the same time.
A combination of injuries were the primary reason as to why the trio missed 7 weeks of action together, but when all three converge on the field as they did against St. Patrick on Saturday, there's something real special in the air at Cary-Grove and the rest of Class 6A could be in big trouble.
In the Trojans's 49-21 steamroll at Cary's Al Bohrer Field in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs, the three-headed monster of Norberg, Mahoney and Baker combined to rush for 446 of Cary-Grove's 497 yards on the ground. Behind 197 yards and 3 touchdowns from Norberg, 161 yards rushing and a touchdown from Baker and 88 yards and a touchdown from Mahoney the Trojans rolled on.
A scary statement to say the least from C-G's big three, the top-seeded Trojans (11-0) advance to the quarterfinals where they will host District 155 rival Crystal Lake Central next Saturday at 1 p.m. Cary-Grove eliminated the Tigers in the first round of last year's playoffs.
"It definitely gives us more options," said Norberg, who busted out a 76-yard touchdown run on Cary-Grove's first play from scrimmage with 8:34 left in the first quarter." It must be hard; it's hard for any defense to focus on four different players. It's good that they can't focus on any one of us, it leaves many options for all of us."
Norberg became the established runner from the start, and then healthy doses of Mahoney and Baker certainly were the other anecdote. But Norberg mentioned four because the trio refused to acknowledge it was a three-headed Godzilla after the game, feeling four was the more-ideal moniker by making sure Kaene Connington not only received recognition for his blocking, but attention by the press.
"We all play different roles, we can all play multiple roles," Baker said. "Kaene can run the ball, but (he's) a ridiculous blocker and whether we need him to do either or, he'll do both."
Connington didn't have a rush or a reception, but the soft-spoken senior took pride watching Norberg destroy No. 8 seed St. Patrick's defense.
"I think it's just as rewarding," Connington said. "When I get up after a big block and see Kyle running away, it's awesome."
Connington blocked and watched awesome happen three times, as Norberg scored 3 of the first 4 Trojan TDs -- from 76, 34 and 3 yards out. Norberg's second score with 6:57 left in the first quarter was a product off a turnover in which Cary-Grove linebacker Brock Bussenger scooped up a failed handoff exchange between St. Patrick quarterback Zach Fuller and running back Jeremy Molina at the Shamrock 25. It was the first of 3 turnovers the Trojans would recover. After an illegal block penalty, 4 plays later, Norberg scored to put Cary-Grove ahead by 2 scores.
"It's like running with tunnel vision and I just turn on the jets," said Norberg, who believed his first touchdown set the tone for the day. "I think it was good having the first play be a big play and a touchdown. It really set the tone for the rest of the game and let them know we were ready to play."
St. Patrick (7-3) rallied back on a 6-play, 72-yard drive capped by Fuller's 41-yard pass to Steve Galiardo down the left sideline to pull within 7. But Cary-Grove's subsequent drive resulted in a 23-yard touchdown from Zach Marszal on a play action pass from Baker. St. Patrick refused to quit and 4 plays later scored on Molina's 4-yard run to make 21-14 with 11:55 left in the second quarter.
But Norberg busted a 43-yard run on the Trojans' next drive and he capped it with a 3 yard score. Marszal added a 37-yard touchdown run with 5:04 left and Baker ran in from 1 yard out with 10 seconds left in the second quarter to make it 42-14. Mahoney finished the first drive of the third quarter with a 33-yard touchdown run and the monster called it a day.
"That's what the last few games has shown, the diversity of our backfield," Baker said. "How many different playmakers we have. Ryan going up, Kyle going up, me going up and Kane going up, makes a big grab -- they just don't know how to defend it."
Shamrocks coach Dan Galante said his team couldn't get out of the early hole but, "by the same token, they kind of put us in that hole and we didn't help ourselves either. We had to play one of our better games this year. You can't do that at playoff time. "
Molina ran for 189 yards on 20 carries and Cary-Grove amassed 520 total yards to St. Patrick's 442.