Cary-Grove tunes up for playoffs by beating Burlington Central
Burlington Central probably would have felt pretty good if it knew Cary-Grove star running back Blake Skol would finish the teams' Fox Valley Conference finale Friday on Rocket Hill with 64 rushing yards.
Problem for the Rockets is the Trojans have many other ways to make life miserable for a defense -- namely Lukas Eleftheriou, Greg Mistak, Ethan Carlson and Wade Abrams.
Cary-Grove moved the ball up and down the field all night, bouncing back from last week's loss to Prairie Ridge with a 42-14 victory that sends the Trojans into the playoffs with a 7-2 record.
"A loss is never good in my opinion but it was a good wake-up call in a sense," Eleftheriou said. "We wanted to put it behind us and come in and make a statement tonight and I think we made a pretty good statement."
Eleftheriou completed 4 of 8 passes for 94 yards -- with three of the completions going for touchdowns. He also rushed for 130 yards on 9 carries and another touchdown.
Carlson was his favorite target, catching a 28-yard touchdown to start the scoring and a 48-yard touchdown that put the Trojans ahead 28-0 at halftime.
"He's got some speed so I just have to lead him," Eleftheriou said. "The coaches made some good adjustments tonight. They put us in the right play at the right time. Our offensive line executed and our slots executed as well. Blake took one for the team and we gave the yards to some other people."
Cary-Grove's defense also was on top of its game. Gyanni Kanellakis recovered a fumble on the fourth play of the game. After a 13-yard run by Mistak, Eleftheriou hit a wide-open Carlson for a 28-yard TD. The first of Nathan Splitt's six straight point after kicks put the Trojans up 7-0 just 1:57 into the game.
Burlington Central couldn't get the Cary-Grove offense off the field all night. The Trojans gained 301 of their 423 yards in the first half. They converted 7 of 8 third downs, and the only time the Rockets held, Cary-Grove went for it on 4th-and-7 and Mistak ran around the left edge for 9 yards and another first down.
"They have so many weapons," Rockets coach Brian Melvin said.
Abrams and Skol ran for first-half touchdowns of 15 and 4 yards, respectively. Skol opened the third quarter with a 12-yard TD run, then Jake Johnson blocked a punt that set up Eleftheriou's 10-yard touchdown run for a 42-0 lead with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
Or basically the exact opposite score of last week's 42-7 loss to Prairie Ridge.
"Any time you play a quality team like Prairie Ridge you see things on film you have to fix," Trojans coach Brad Seaburg said. "We tried to do that. We have a team that has improved throughout the season and that was our focus this week."
Mistak rushed for 89 yards on just 7 attempts.
Cary-Grove now awaits its playoff draw as it gets ready to enter the field as defending state champs.
"This is the time of the season everyone has a new life and 32 teams will try to win the state championship," Seaburg said. "We're just glad we're one of them."
Burlington Central scored twice in the fourth quarter. Nathan Arians carried 7 yards for the first touchdown followed by Luke Thompson making a 35-yard reception that led to his own 1-yard score.
Senior Jake Lenschow and sophomore Gavin Sarvis combined for 62 yards rushing while quarterback Mark Ganziano completed 7 of 12 passes for 84 yards.
The Rockets finish their first season in the FVC at 3-6.
"I can't even tell you how much they mean to me," Melvin said of his seniors. "These kids have been unbelievable.
"We are filled with young guys. Our freshmen finished 4-5 in the Fox Valley. There's so much to build on right now."