DeKALB -- Cary-Grove got off to a perfect start in Saturday afternoon's Class 6A quarterfinal against DeKalb, but the host Barbs seized momentum late in the opening quarter and carried it the rest of the way.
After marching 79 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, the Trojans squandered an opportunity to go up 14-0 by turning the ball over on downs in DeKalb territory.
The seventh-seeded Barbs responded by reeling off 28 of the next 35 points on their way to securing a surprising, but well-deserved 35-21 victory.
Cary-Grove (10-2) amassed 364 yards on the ground in its attempt to reach a third consecutive semifinal, but was 0-for-5 passing with 2 interceptions and converted just 1-of-4 fourth down attempts.
DeKalb (10-2) advanced to the semifinals for the first time since a Class 4A runner-up finish in 1980 and will travel to face No. 1 Prairie Ridge, which dismantled Lake Forest 71-7.
"We scored on the first series and were rolling pretty good, then we got the ball back on a three and out. I really felt like if we got that second score, we would build some momentum," said Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg. "We get those most of the time. A testament to DeKalb, they stopped us when they needed to."
"It started out very well, but obviously they outplayed us the rest of the way and that's why they're moving on," said Trojans senior Tyler Pennington, who rushed 30 times for 143 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Trojans faced their first deficit since dropping the season opener to Prairie Ridge when DeKalb moved in front 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Jalante Young raced 65 yards around right end for a score and the first of two Jacob Neidel interceptions set up Derek Kyler's 14-yard touchdown strike to Cole Tucker.
Pennington carried five straight times for Cary-Grove and capped an impressive 9-play, 57 yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to even the score at 14-14 with 5:24 left in the half.
Cary-Grove was looking to grab a halftime lead after getting the ball back near midfield, but DeKalb stopped the Trojans on downs and turned the tables when Tucker pulled down a 25-yard touchdown in traffic with 2 seconds left.
"I have so much respect for Cary-Grove and I ran off a lot of time because I didn't want to give them the ball back," said DeKalb coach Matt Weckler. "We were going to kick a field goal there, but Cole made a great catch and that gave us the advantage."
"That was a huge score," Seaburg said.
The Barbs opened the second half by extending their lead to 28-14 as Tucker, who finished with 5 catches for 140 yards, hauled in a 32-yard reception over the middle on 3rd-and-11 to keep the drive alive.
"Anytime you're up two scores against a triple offense team, that's huge," Weckler said.
Cary-Grove answered with a methodical 14-play, 74-yard scoring drive that took over 7 minutes, capped by quarterback Bobby Collins' 6-yard run on 4th-and-1.
The Trojans were on the verge of getting the ball back when they forced DeKalb into another 3rd-and-11 situation, but Kyler connected with Tucker on a 63-yard pass play and followed with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Devin Williams with 10:23 remaining.
"Tucker's a great player too. That's what it comes down to in the playoffs is great players making plays," Seaburg said."
"Their offense was very explosive. We knew that coming in and didn't take them lightly at all," Pennington added.
Collins racked up 127 yards rushing on 19 carries while Ryan Magel gained 39 yards on 7 attempts. The Trojans ran 69 plays to DeKalb's 42, but had only two plays that went for more than 20 yards.
The Trojans also hurt themselves with 7 penalties for 55 yards.
"We fought back and never gave up, but execution of plays was critical and we just didn't execute at the right time," Collins said.
"We had opportunities for sure offensively, but we made some mistakes and penalties that put us in tough down and distances," Seaburg said.