It was a drive for the ages and a 2-point call that will go down in Cary-Grove football folklore for a long time.
The Trojans not only went 70 yards in the final 3 minutes of a 36-35 comeback win at Crystal Lake Central, but followed up Max Skol's 1-yard touchdown dive as time expired with a gutsy 2-point conversion that Benjamin Ferrell caught untouched that sent the C-G sideline into complete bedlam at Owen Metcalf Field Friday night.
"We've never had a win like this; it was like a playoff game, it was awesome," said Skol, who came back from injury and carried 17 times for 70 yards. "The momentum should carry; there's a lot of things we have to fix but really I feel people stepped up on both sides of the ball and that was an awesome job and that'll carry over into the playoffs."
Cary-Grove rolled into the playoffs getting that guaranteed sixth win, ending the season at 6-3 overall and 6-2 in the Fox Valley Conference. And there was no question once Skol made it 35-34 Central, how coach Brad Seaburg wanted to get that sixth win.
"No doubt, no doubt," Seaburg said of the call. "We were having a hard time stopping them. We felt confident in what we were doing offensively to get three yards. We were fortunate to get them there."
On the 2-pointer, quarterback Quinn Priester (4-for-11 passing 75 yards, 73 rushing yards, 2 TD) simply rolled out to his right into an open field where he saw Ferrell wide open. The flick to an open Ferrell near the back of the end zone was perfect and it capped off a night where Cary-Grove once found itself down 13-0 in the first half.
"Our kids have a ton of character," Seaburg said. "We've lost some games this year but we never lost confidence and the kids just compete and we're real proud of them, we're just real proud them."
The game-winning drive was nothing short of hectic starting at the CLC 30. C-G benefited from a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call with over a minute left that put the Trojans on the CLC 25. Six plays later after an incomplete pass on 3rd and 5, Danny Daigle converted a fourth down from the CLC 6 down to the 1, which enabled the clock to stop and allow C-G to spike the ball.
"The first down was critical for moving the chains would stop the clock, giving us that time to spike the ball," said Preister, who had no timeouts left. "I don't think if we got that first down we'd been able to get that spike down."
With just 2 seconds to go, the call was to Skol and he did nothing else but jump in the air as hard and far as he could. Skol had enough but reached over the line with his arms extended.
"I just knew I had to get into the end zone, I had to help my team that was the most important part was not letting them down," Skol said. "I knew if I didn't have a hole I'm jumping over the piles and I jumped over -- I might've been over but I just reached over a little bit and I knew right then and it was pretty sweet."
Then it came down to Priester with two options: rollout and throw if Ferrell was open or keep it and run it in. Ferrell, who was money all night, came up huge, again.
"I didn't see anyone else around and I just thought, 'I just got to catch this ball' and that's what happened," said Ferrell, who had 1 interception as well as all of Cary-Grove's catches for 75 yards. "That was a great team job, everybody was like, 'we got to get this.' "
Cary-Grove lost the total yard edge 466-376 as Jake Staples ran for 141 and 2 TDs on 15 carries and threw for 2 TDs on 17-for-28 passing for 260, but was able to grind it out on the ground for 301 yards thanks to Max Buss' 65 yards rushing and 2 TDs. C-G rallied from a 13-0 deficit in the first half, watched a 28-21 third quarter lead evaporate and saw Central (5-4, 4-4) score with 3:21 left, which to the Tigers all but seemed to be the game up 35-28 and a sixth win thanks to Staples and his 15-yard strike to Anthony Beck.
"How sweet it was beating Prairie Ridge my first year of coaching on the 2-point conversion, (this) was pretty sweet, too," Seaburg said. "That was a similar team, just fought, and fought and fought. But yes it is very emotional but it only matters if we carry that over into the first round."