Cary-Grove's home-field advantage did not translate into any edge in field position in Friday night's Fox Valley Conference season-opening showdown against Prairie Ridge.
Two of the Trojans' first-half possessions started at their 3 and they were backed up at their 11 the first time they got the ball in the second half. All 12 of their possessions began in their own territory.
And Prairie Ridge took advantage of shorter fields en route to its four touchdowns and a 26-14 victory before a standing-room-only crowd at Al Bohrer Field in Cary.
"Offensively we had poor field position and we really got killed on first down," said Cary coach Brad Seaburg after his team was held to 66 of its 327 total yards in the second half. "We never got the down and distances we could to get any kind of rhythm going."
Derek Greiner's 41.2-yard average on 6 punts and his kickoffs were part of the reason. So was the Wolves' defense led by two-way junior lineman Jeff Jenkins and linebackers Pete Berg and Jake Ommen that stifled Cary senior standout running back Tyler Pennington to 48 yards on 15 carries.
"(Greiner) did a phenomenal job," said PR coach Chris Schremp. "It was an unbelievable effort by our defense. These guys practice so hard day-in and day-out and it showed tonight."
Cary's defense led by Pennington, Max Skol, David Daigle and Jordan Laktas contained dangerous junior option quarterback Samson Evans to 60 yards rushing on 19 carries. But all 5 of Evans' completions in 9 attempts went to 6-foot-4, 240-pound Army-bound tight end Austin Ferbet for 71 yards and 2 touchdowns.
A 22-yarder to Ferbet opened the scoring and a 24-yarder over the middle 57 seconds before halftime put the Wolves up for good at 20-14. They also turned an 11-yard pass into a hook-and-ladder touchdown with Zach Gulbransen taking Ferbet's lateral 25 yards into the end zone with 6:59 left in the first half.
"Austin is such an unbelievable athlete ... he makes everything look easy," Schremp said.
"That was a play we put in over the summer," Ferbet said. "It worked almost every time in practice so we had to bust it out in the game. We said we wanted to use it early in the game so we would catch them by surprise."
Cary got tying first-half scores on an 80-yard run by Ryan Magel (5 carries, 91 yards) and a 66-yard quarterback keeper by Bobby Collins (10 carries, 101 yards). And it nearly got another touchdown to end the half when a low field goal snap led to scrambling kicker Collin Walsh just missing an open Ben Levicki in the end zone.
A 1-yard touchdown run by Manny Ebirim capped a 13-play, 55-yard drive by PR that set the final score with 7:10 to play.
"Give credit to them, they made plays, played physical and did what they needed to win tonight and we did not," Seaburg said. "We just were not as sharp as we want to be."