The first half highlights from Saturday's Grant-Crystal Lake Central contest could be appropriately titled, "The Fast and the Furious."
Central didn't just install a fast-paced, no-huddle offense this season. The Tiger' goal is to play at breakneck speed. Rarely did five seconds pass between the referee signaling the ball ready for play and the snap.
Grant held a lead heading into the fourth quarter, but couldn't stay up to speed and dropped a 29-15 decision in Fox Lake.
"I don't know if it caught them by surprise or not, but that's part of the offense is to wear teams down with that pace," Central coach Matt Fralick said. "We're trying to run a play every 12 seconds. You could see it. It paid some dividends for us tonight."
The Tigers' offense was relatively simple. They'd alternate handoffs to Ryan Williams (22 carries, 107 yards) and Connor Hines (18 carries, 107 yards). Then sometimes quarterback Kyle Lavand (60 yards rushing, 139 yards passing) would just keep it himself four or five plays in a row.
Until it came time to run some clock late in the contest, Central barely left enough time for anyone to glance at the game program in between plays. In the first half, one Tigers drive lasted 18 plays, but took just over five minutes off the clock.
"I thought they were going to come out double tight and just try to pound us," Grant coach Kurt Rous said. "Instead, they spread and tried to pound us, which they did."
Central rolled up 282 yards of offense in the first half and took a 14-7 lead into intermission when Hines scored from a yard out with 30 seconds left. The Bulldogs' defense seemed to be gasping for air at times.
"It was a very, very tiring, first of all. It was exhausting," Grant two-way lineman Francisco Uribe said. "It was all about the mental focus. I feel like we had a couple mental lapses in the game. We were too tired to get on loose balls. Physically, we were there. Mentally sometimes we were in and out of the game. We can't be doing that."
Grant seemed to catch its breath at halftime. The Bulldogs scored on the first possession of the third quarter, with quarterback Jake Bychowski capping a 59-yard drive, but a bad snap spoiled the tying extra point.
It hardly mattered when after the kickoff, Uribe and Deonte Dillon trapped Lavand for a safety, giving Grant a 15-14 edge. It stayed that way until the 9:15 mark of the fourth quarter, when Matt Teigtmeier took a short pass from Lavand and turned it into a 47-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion made it 22-15.
"We've been working on (the no-huddle) all summer long, so we've kind of got the system down now," Lavand said. "We know we're in shape. They've got a couple guys going both ways. Keep the foot on the gas and keep driving it."
Grant had a couple of chances to pull even, but one drive stalled near midfield. Then a sack by Josh Mugler and fumble recovery by Eric Jensen set up the Tigers' clinching touchdown with 2:15 left.
Central will be without Hines and Williams for next week's game against Crystal Lake South because both players were ejected late in the contest. Grant lost starting middle linebacker Tim Hollins on the game's third play with a shoulder injury.
"We've got more guys going both ways than we wanted. A couple of them cramped up," Rous said. "The heat was a factor. Obviously, getting pushed around was a factor. Half the teams in the state of Illinois are 0-1. Unfortunately, we're one of them. We'll get better."