Downers Grove North blitzes Buffalo Grove
Trailing 14-7 at halftime, Downers Grove North looked like it was in for a real struggle Friday night in the Trojans' 2019 season-opening football game at Buffalo Grove.
But Downers Grove North definitely held the upper hand of this contest as the Trojans really owned the ground game against the Bison in the second half.
Behind senior quarterback Drew Cassens' 3 touchdown runs in the third quarter, Downers Grove North wound up taking a 28-14 lead into the fourth quarter before rolling to an impressive 35-14 nonconference victory behind 28 unanswered points.
It only took 1:37 into the third quarter for Cassens (199 yards rushing on 22 carries) to strike the Bison defense.
On a first-and-10 play, Cassens faked a handoff to senior teammate Josh Lumpkins (104 yards on 19 rushes) before racing 22 yards up the middle for the touchdown. The second of 5 extra points by Azriel Henriquez deadlocked the score at 14-14.
Then came a huge turnover as Buffalo Grove quarterback Mark Antonetti (78 yards on 11 carries) fumbled a handoff exchange in the backfield with the Trojans recovering the ball at the Buffalo Grove 23-yard-line.
Five plays later, Cassens scored on a 1-yard keeper, and DGN had its first lead of the game at 21-14 with 8:28 left in the third quarter.
"We just kind of lost our steam in the second half. They did a great job up front, and Drew Cassens was the best player on the field tonight," said Buffalo Grove coach Jeff Vlk, whose team lost a whopping 37 seniors to graduation. "Our kids are hungry, our kids are fighting, but the youth and inexperience was big tonight. We were excited in the first half, but they adjusted in the second half and played us really well."
After the Bison's next drive stalled, a partially deflected punt gave the Trojans great field possession again at the Buffalo Grove 36.
On fourth-and-3, Cassens broke free up the middle for a 29-yard TD run and a 28-14 advantage late in the third quarter.
"We were disappointed coming out slow, but in the second half the offensive line really brought it," said Cassens, who had 80 yards rushing at halftime. "It was honestly the best blocked game I've ever been a part of, and we wanted to keep the ball on the ground."
The consistent running of Lumpkin helped salt away the victory as a 1-yard TD run by Lumpkin with 1:57 to play accounted for the final score.
"I think we hurt ourselves in the first half with the little things on offense, but our coaches did an unbelievable job at halftime making some adjustments," said DGN coach Joe Horeni, whose team had 330 of its 367 total yards on the ground. "Drew Cassens does a lot of things for us. He did a phenomenal job, and it was a good learning experience for our guys coming back."
The Bison got on the scoreboard first when Antonetti (10-for-15, 128 yards passing) broke a tackle and scored on a 49-yard keeper before the extra point by Cal Gerhardt made the score 7-0.
The Trojans answered with a 29-yard TD run by Cassens exactly one minute into the second quarter.
Buffalo Grove took the lead back when Pasquale Dellaquila barely reached his arms over the goal line for a 6-yard TD run and a 14-7 lead late in the first half.
"To score three touchdowns in the third quarter was really special on their field," said Horeni, whose team lost 49-19 to the Bison last year. "With two guys over 100 yards that says something about our offensive line and our kids carrying the ball."
Buffalo Grove wound up with 128 yards both rushing and passing for a total of 256 yards of offense. Senior Max Oberman caught 2 passes for 64 yards for the Bison.