Crystal Lake Central wins wild one over Dundee-Crown
Crystal Lake Central Aiden Ellinger had himself quite an evening Friday night. Or was it quite a morning on Saturday? Well, actually, it was both.
In a game that was delayed Friday night by lightning, then restarted, then finally suspended with the score tied at 35-35 in the fourth quarter, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound southpaw Ellinger accounted for more than 400 of the Tigers' 478 yards of total offense and led Crystal Lake Central to a thrilling 42-41 Fox Valley Conference victory Friday night -- er, Saturday morning.
Ellinger ran for 42 yards, but it was his precision passing that decimated Dundee-Crown's beleaguered defense, which has now given up 228 points in its last five games. Ellinger blitzed the Chargers' secondary for 366 yards on 20-of-28 passing. From the latter stages of the second quarter (on Friday night) through the end of the game (on Saturday morning), Ellinger completed 16 out of 18 throws, including two touchdowns.
Yet he would not allow himself to stand in the spotlight alone.
"Everyone contributed in this game, on both sides of the ball," the unassuming Ellinger said. "The (offensive) line really did a great job on the last drive. All I had to do was make my reads and work their secondary."
The last drive wasn't exactly pretty -- the two teams combined for six penalties on the first dozen plays Saturday morning -- but it got the job done. Taking over at his own 12, Ellinger was 5 of 6, including completions of 31 and 36 yards to 6-4, 185-pound wide receiver Anthony Beck. Then, from the Dundee-Crown 15, Ellinger found Drew Jenkins in the front left corner of the end zone with 4:55 to play to put the Tigers (2-5, 2-4) on top, 42-35.
But the Chargers (3-4, 2-4) mounted one last drive of their own. Starting at midfield after an onside kick, quarterback Josh Raby (11 of 19, 169 yards, two touchdowns) did a fine job of mixing runs and passes and drawing down the clock before finally hitting Jack Michalski on a textbook 15-yard post pattern in the front of the end zone to make it 42-41 with 19.7 seconds left. But Christian Alamillo, one of the best kickers in the conference, pushed the point after wide right. All that was left was for Ellinger to take a knee and the two teams to go do their laundry for the second time in 12 hours.
"Coming back to finish in the morning was an advantage for us; we got to wash and dry our clothes and get a good night's sleep," explained Tigers head coach Jon McLaughlin. "But Aiden was phenomenal for us. He's just a heck of an athlete."
Ellinger was helped by Jake Coss, who ground out 61 yards on 16 carries and scored twice. For Dundee-Crown, Ricky Ibarra (17 carries, 148 yards) and Kareem Dunner (118 yards on 11 carries) did the yeoman's work for head coach Mike Steinhaus.
"You know, we're trying to beat history here at Dundee-Crown," Steinhaus said. "That's just how it is. But these kids keep fighting, and I'm proud of them."
Asked about the defense's struggles this season, Steinhaus added, "They're just not doing what they're asked to do, but that's on me, not on them. I have to get them to do what they're asked."