Wauconda can't keep up with No. 1 Cary-Grove
A large teammate walked past Cary-Grove junior linebacker Jake Johnson as he met with reporters, slapped him on the shoulder pads and shouted, "Stumpy!"
"That's my nickname," said a smiling Johnson, who's as thick as a century-old oak. "I'm fine with 'Stumpy.' "
Stumpy stood tall Friday night, and the No. 1 seed in the Class 6A state playoffs played equally huge.
With all three phases contributing, Cary-Grove rolled over Wauconda 49-7 in the first-round matchup in Cary.
Cary-Grove (10-0) advances to Round 2 for the 15th year in a row and will next play the winner of Saturday's 7 p.m. game between No. 8 Kaneland (6-3) and No. 9 Von Steuben (6-3) in Maple Park.
No. 16 Wauconda, which was making its first postseason appearance since 2016, finished 5-5.
"We handled (the playoff environment) pretty well," Wauconda senior lineman and captain Chris Carlsen said. "We knew we had nothing to lose."
But staying with Cary-Grove required Wauconda to play a close-to-perfect game, and the Bulldogs never gave themselves a chance. Their opening series went nowhere and included a false-start penalty. Then on fourth-and-15 from the Wauconda 21, the 5-foot-6, 180-pound Johnson broke through the line and blocked the punt.
He also recovered it, setting up the Trojans at the 9. Three plays later, fullback Blake Skol scored (11 carries, 94 yards) from 8 yards out.
"We came into practice knowing that we were going to go after them on the first punt," Johnson said. "I just did my job. I got in there and got the block."
Wauconda sophomore quarterback Nick Bulgarelli used his elusiveness and scrambling abilities to help the Bulldogs pick up a couple of first downs on their next series. But after C-G forced another punt, the Trojans went 80 yards on seven plays, scoring when QB Ben McDonald (9-of-11 passing, 158 yards) hit running back Danny Daigle from 21 yards on fourth-and-5.
"We've been really fortunate over the years in the playoffs where we get off to those starts," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "We get a score, then another score, and all of a sudden you're up by14. It makes it tough for the other team to be chasing a couple of touchdowns."
McDonald's 4-yard keeper put the Trojans up 21-0 late in the opening quarter. The touchdown came one play after a bounced snap on another Wauconda punt gave the home team a short field again.
Wauconda responded, as Bulgarelli engineered another long drive, but it ended with Cary-Grove's Dymitri Kanellakis intercepting a pass in the corner of the end zone. Kanellakis had 2 interceptions on the night.
McDonald (18 yards) and Skol (5 yards) added TD runs before halftime to make it 35-0. Skol's third touchdown, from 29 yards out, came on the second play of the second half and started the running clock.
Bulgarelli was a bright spot for Wauconda, throwing for 260 yards on 17-of-38 passing.
"He was tough to cover, at first," said Johnson, who had 2 of C-G's 5 sacks in the first half. "We had to do our jobs. We had to stay inside-out as linebackers, and our cornerbacks had to force him inside. We adjusted at halftime and got the job done."
"He's progressed a lot," Carlsen said of his first-year varsity QB. "He's not scared. He's going to be good by his senior year. I could bet on that one."
Wauconda didn't score until late in the fourth quarter against Cary-Grove's backups. Bulgarelli connected with running back Erik Trela on a screen pass that resulted in a 26-yard touchdown. JJ Jacobo, another Bulldogs sophomore, had 8 receptions for 112 yards.
Cary-Grove got its final TD from backup QB Jameson Sheehan on a 2-yard run.
"We just got beat up by a championship-caliber team. What else do you want me to tell you?" said Wauconda coach Dave Mills, managing a chuckle. "They're a fast team. We knew that coming in. We knew that it was not going to be a 10-7 game. We knew that we were going to have to score some points."