Crystal Lake South powers past Jacobs for 5th win
The playoffs started two weeks early for Crystal Lake South and Jacobs Friday night in Algonquin, and it's the Gators who survived and advanced.
Crystal Lake South got the must-win it needed in Fox Valley Conference action, beating Jacobs 28-7 behind a dominating third quarter that saw the Gators score three unanswered touchdowns and break a 7-7 halftime tie.
The Gators (5-3, 5-2) are playoff eligible for the first time since 2015. They close the regular season next week against state-ranked Prairie Ridge while eliminating Jacobs (3-5, 3-4) from the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons since Bill Mitz took over. They also handed the Golden Eagles their fourth straight loss.
Crystal Lake South coach Rob Fontana delivered a fiery postgame pep talk to his fired up team afterward.
"It means a lot," senior Jacob Rana said of the playoffs. "Everyone on the team is pretty amped up. To the whole program it means a lot."
Junior quarterback Ian Gorken ran for 2 touchdowns and threw a third TD.
"All the hard work we've put in the last 12 months, it feels amazing," Gorken said. "We knew we weren't playing our best football in the first half and there was so much more we could do. Everything just clicked and we were playing on all cylinders."
Aidan Roberts made the first big play of the game for Jacobs, blocking a 26-yard field goal attempt midway through the first quarter.
That kept the game scoreless through 12 minutes, but the Gators struck on their next drive. Gorken kept the ball for a 25-yard run on a 3rd-and-16 to keep the drive going.
Moments later Gorken called his own number again on a read option and ran 14 yards for the first score and a 7-0 lead. The Gators marched 89 yards in 11 plays.
Jacobs answered just before halftime, going to its two-minute offense to drive 67 yards and score with .7 seconds left in the half. Junior quarterback Cole Bhardwaj dropped back and rifled a ball into a tight window and found Joshua Hill cutting across the back of the end zone. Patrick Castellano's extra point tied the game at 7 going to halftime.
Perhaps the key play of the game came on the opening drive of the second half. Facing 4th-and-3, Fontana went to his bag of tricks and called a fake punt from his own 31.
Up man Darren Manning took the direct snap and plowed ahead for those three yards and a first down.
"It was a play we had thrown in and liked the way it looked," Fontana said. "I don't know if that was the right time to do it but ultimately those few inches saved us and we were able to capitalize on that drive. That was a big momentum change for us."
Two plays later Gorken dumped a screen pass to Rana who broke free down the left sideline, then cut back and started weaving through defenders for what ended up as a 53-yard gain to Jacobs' 10-yard line.
"It all starts with the boys up front," Rana said. "Our line did a great job blocking down field, same with our receivers."
"The spark that play gave us and the way he runs around with the football in his hands, he's a dynamic player for us," Fontana said. "He's a guy who can break one at any time. He's extremely shifty and he works his tail off in practice. It's nice he gets the payoff on Friday nights."
Zach Borgert, who entered the game with 1,148 yards and 14 touchdowns and added 144 yards and another touchdown Friday, scored from 1 yard out to give the Gators a 14-7 lead.
The defense quickly stopped Jacobs twice, and the Gators just as quickly put the ball in the end zone two more times. First, Gorken found Rana for a 28-yard touchdown reception, then Gorken ran in from 9 yards out to make it 28-7 with :33.6 left in the third quarter.
Neither team scored again as the Gators ran the clock out behind an offensive line including Nicholas Morrissey, Trevor Keegan, Ethan Greenspan, Jakob Marchik and Dominic Collado. Crystal Lake South outgained Jacobs 278-67 on the ground and had 14 first downs in the second half to the Golden Eagles' 2.
"They (the line) have done it all year," Fontana said. "Those guys just buy in. Their job is to go in there and move the trenches and they did it."