Cary-Grove shuts out Crystal Lake South
The Cary-Grove football team answered a lot of preseason questions with how well the Trojans played throughout Friday's 34-0 Fox Valley Conference win at Crystal Lake South.
There were several unknowns about the 2018 Class 6A champs, who graduated the bulk of their offensive talent and half the defense. For one: How would the triple-option offense perform with only center Evan Hissong and Nathan Desmet returning to the offensive line?
Well, Cary-Grove rushed for 363 yards and 5 touchdowns behind those two returnees and four newcomers: senior Ryan Beeksma and juniors Nathan Gamez, Joe Swanson and Zach Stolz. Senior fullback Blake Skol followed them for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries.
Another question was how new quarterback Lukas Eleftheriou would fare in replacing Ben McDonald?
The 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior opened the scoring with a 76-yard touchdown run with 4:44 left in the first quarter. He also scored on a 16-yard, third-quarter run to give the Trojans a 27-0 cushion following Nathan Splitt's extra point. He finished with 118 yards in 5 attempts.
"You have to give all the credit to the O-line," said Eleftheriou, who also played safety for most of the first two quarters. "We had a lot of new O-line players. They stepped up and they really played well."
As for the Cary-Grove defense? It looked the same as it has for years -- fast and physical. That unit held the Gators to 215 total yards, 100 via the rush. They successfully swarmed returning all-FVC quarterback/receiver Ian Gorken, who was limited to 50 yards rushing on 8 carries and 8 receptions for 39 yards.
The Cary-Grove defense came up with 2 fumbles and an interception by junior Anthony LaMantia.
"The one thing we always know is what Cary is going to be defensively," said Crystal Lake South coach Rob Fontana, whose team likewise started many players untested at the varsity level. "They are going to be fast, they are going to be physical, they're going to fly and swarm to the football, they're going to create turnovers and they're going to be sound. Those are all the things that Cary always brings to the table. It's a big step for us. It's a learning moment for us."
Skol made it a 14-0 lead with an 18-yard, second-quarter touchdown run. That 12-play, 70-yard drive included a fake punt run for a first down by Skol and a fourth-down conversion pass from Eleftheriou to sophomore slot receiver Wade Abrams
The Trojans led 20-0 at halftime after Skol broke free for a 52-yard scoring run with 55.8 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Gators threatened in the third quarter, but Gorken was hit while scrambling by senior Evan Taylor and fumbled. Senior Mitchell Dec recovered at his own 29-yard line.
The Trojans, who won the turnover battle 3-1, capitalized by marching 71-yards in 7 plays, capped by Eleftheriou's second touchdown.
"That's how we broke their will," he said of the forced fumble. "I truly believe that."