The Cary-Grove football team spent 48 minutes Friday night reminding Dundee-Crown how the pecking order works.
Though resurgent Dundee-Crown opened the season 3-0 and harbored thoughts of upsetting the defending champions of the Fox Valley Conference's Valley Division, the Trojans' convincing 34-0 victory in their home opener showed that D-C, while improved, is not yet in their category.
Cary-Grove junior quarterback Jason Gregoire ran for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns and threw for 131 yards and a score, and freshman Tyler Pennington (5-foot-9½, 175 pounds) rushed for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns in his fullback debut.
Defensively, the Trojans limited the Chargers to 202 total yards and recorded their first shutout since last season's 7-0 Class 6A quarterfinal victory over Crystal Lake Central.
"That is a good football team," D-C coach Vito Andriola said of Cary-Grove. "They're better than us in all three parts: players, coaches and program."
Pennington was revelation. He burst for 31 yards on his first carry and ran for 14 more 2 plays later, sparking an 11-play, 94-yard scoring drive that Gregoire capped with 4 straight keepers, the last a 3-yard touchdown run.
"It was huge," Gregoire said of the freshman's contribution. "He made a lot of big plays and he saw the holes. He was really calm. He didn't even seem nervous before the game so that speaks a lot to his maturity."
Pennington practiced at fullback during the preseason, but due to a rash of early season injuries he played on the defensive line against Wheaton North and Lake Zurich and at strong safety against Huntley.
Saying the team needed more production from the position, Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg switched Pennington back to fullback this week.
"I just tried to learn it as fast as I can and tried to play my best," Pennington said. "I worked hard at it, watched a lot of tape."
"He got both some of the big plays and some of the tough yardage that we needed," Seaburg said. "And he's only going to get better with more reps."
After the Cary-Grove defense stopped the Chargers three-and-out, the Trojans marched 71 yards in 7 plays, keyed by a pair of 17-yard passes from Gregoire to sophomore receiver Kevin Hughes. Gregoire scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard sneak on third-and-goal, and the Trojans led 13-0 after the point-after attempt failed.
The C-G offense struck again 2 possessions later, though the 67-yard, 9-play drive nearly stalled. On fourth-and-6 from the Dundee-Crown 28-yard line, Gregoire dropped back then scrambled up the middle to the 1-yard line. Pennington punched it in for his first varsity touchdown on the next play and Cary-Grove led 20-0 with 2:04 remaining in the first half.
"They're having a really good season, so to come out and punch them in the mouth and get the momentum on our side in our first home game was really big for us," said Gregoire, who completed 7 of 10 passes.
Dundee-Crown tried to break the shutout on its first drive of the third quarter, but D-C quarterback Jeff Atherton was sacked by Joey Maxwell on fourth-and-4 from the Cary-Grove 30 and fumbled on the play. Matt Hughes recovered for the Trojans.
"It was fourth down and I just knew I had to get it done so I fired through," Maxwell said. "Our defense really came through."
Sophomore Caleb Parson led the Chargers with 83 yards on 17 carries. Cordero Parson carried 10 times for 67 yards. Atherton completed 6 of 8 attempts for 41 yards.
"It's their speed. They are so fast," Andriola said in appreciation of Cary-Grove's defense. "We try to emulate that in practice, but we can't. You had backside 'backers making plays on the front side. We have nothing like that."