Who'd have thunk Crystal Lake South rooting on football archrival Cary-Grove?
If you were at Ken Bruhn Field Friday night in Crystal Lake it was indeed true as Gator fans roared at every score update over the loud speaker for the Prairie Ridge vs. Cary-Grove game across town during Crystal Lake South's 32-14 Fox Valley Conference crossover win over Grayslake Central that had a laundry list of subplots to say the least.
Both teams had the option of heading into the playoffs at 8-1, earning better seeds and gaining a guaranteed home game in the process.
But no matter the outcome for Grayslake Central (7-2, 5-1), the Rams were coming back home already co-champions of the FVC Fox Division. With Crystal Lake Central and Woodstock North winning their games Friday night, the Rams will split the Fox three ways.
But after a stunning win for Cary-Grove at Prairie Ridge in overtime, South (8-1, 5-1) is now co-champions of the FVC Valley with Prairie Ridge and instead entering the playoffs at 8-1 in second place, they go in as back-to-back Valley Division champions, a first for the school.
"Cary really came around for us," Gators coach Chuck Ahsmann said. "I was the biggest Cary-Grove fan this week of anybody. It's tough to go 9-0 and it shows how tough it is and it shows how tough our conference is."
Ahsmann would know. His team did so last year, as he ran his head coaching record to 17-1 in regular season games over the past 2 seasons. But in order to be in that position, the Gators had to solve the problem that was Central's running back Joey Valvidia, who went for 381 yards and 6 touchdowns last week against Grayslake North. But South was well aware.
Valdivia came nowhere close to those kind of numbers again. On 15 rushes, Valvidia accounted for 44 yards as South held the Ram rush totals to just 84 yards. South outgained the Rams 364-185.
Field position was huge in the second half for Grayslake Central, as it gave all sorts of easy room for Gators quarterback Austin Fowler, who was inserted in at quarterback in the second half based on a coaches decision. It was the right one. Fowler completed his first pass of the night to receiver John Walovitch for a 17-yard touchdown catch that put CLS up 14-7 and South took off.
South began its next drive at the Grayslake 40. The next, Grayslake 23. They all resulted in touchdowns. South opened up the half with 3 straight scoring possessions, including runs by Reese Dziedzic and Karl Mikulec (8 carries, 84 yards, 2 touchdowns). Mikulec also ran one in from 59 yards out for the game's first score.
"I told the guys at the half, 'this wasn't South football," Fowler said, who competed 5 of 6 passes for 79 yards. "Second half we have to come out, get ready and drive the ball down the field and we have the score. Our offensive line put it into gear and our defense held them when they needed to. Our defense did the job for us."
Ask Valdivia, he could tell you everything about the South defense.
"They're a great defense. I hit the outside a lot and they can hit. It was a lot faster than last week. It was nice playing them before the playoffs," Valvidia said. "We just have to keep on going.