The trouble last week for the Crystal Lake South football team in a season-opening loss to McHenry was a lack of scoring.
This week, scoring wasn't so much a problem for the Gators as were the penalties and turnovers, which came at the worst possible times in a 34-29 Fox Valley Conference loss to crosstown rival CL Central that dropped the Gators to 0-2.
One big instance in particular came when South (0-2, 0-2) led CL Central by 2 with 4 minutes left in the second quarter and had to convert a 3rd-and-1 at midfield.
Up until that point in the game, the Gators had a 16-14 lead and Kyle Leva was running up a storm. But a fumble recovery and 45-yard touchdown return by CLC linebacker Braden Bisram changed the whole complexion of the game. Bisram's heroics led to 20 unanswered points for the Tigers (2-0, 1-0), which gave Central all they needed in their second-straight win over South and third in 4 tries.
"I thought the fumble return by Bisram shifted momentum for us in our favor," CL Central coach Jon McCaughlin said. "That was a big play."
Bisram (19 rushes, 64 yards, 1 rushing TD) may have stole the momentum from South, but quarterback Jake Staples, who threw 11-for-29 for 125 yards along with 19 carries for 77 yards made it hard for the Gators to comeback.
Staples scored once in the air to Daniel Manning on a 13-yard strike and twice on the ground, his last score putting Central up 34-16 with 9:21 left in fourth that capped a 2-play, 15 yard drive after South again fumbled, this time at their own 15.
But one thing South might've learned was that it doesn't give up so easily.
"They could've used the (second quarter fumble) as a way to go down but they stayed fired up on the sideline the entire time," Gators coach Rob Fontana said. "These kids fought all the way to end. It turned out to be a really, really good high school football game to be apart of. Nobody quit. They stayed positive on the sideline."
Insert Leva and backup quarterback Dylan Rhoades. Leva showed his skills on the ground with 2 first half runs, a 62-yard touchdown run and a 46-yard score that helped him amount 168 yards rushing. But him and Rhoades hooked up in the air that almost had a swamp miracle in the making.
With 8:24 left in the fourth, Rhoades found Leva down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown grab that made it 34-22. Forcing a punt with 2:04 left, Rhoades needed one pass, a 43-yard touchdown grab for Leva, that was tipped to Leva by a Central defender around the Tiger 25 to get South within 5 at the 1:56 mark.
"Our offense rallied there really nicely at the end," said Rhoades, who was 5-for-10 for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. "We didn't quite get the job done but it definitely showed a lot."
South's subsequent onside attempt failed and while the Gators committed 11 penalties for 95 yards and watched 2 fumbles (3 turnovers total) go for scores, there were positives.
"We're still on a learning curve," said Leva, who finished with 101 yards receiving and 269 total yards with 4 touchdowns. "I think we took a big step forward today. We definitely found a way to score which we had trouble with last week."