Prairie Ridge ends Grayslake North's season
Grayslake North football players had some fun at a pre-playoff practice a few days ago.
They formed snowballs and chucked them at each other.
Friendly fire -- in frigid temps.
Sure-handed Knights receiver Joe Swanson probably caught each snowball anywhere near him and then whipped it back at his "foe" in no time.
"We made snow angels, too," the 6-foot-2, 178-pound senior said Saturday afternoon in Crystal Lake.
Host Prairie Ridge played devilishly good football against Grayslake North in a Class 6A playoff opener on a cold, gray day, striking for 44 first-half points en route to a 51-6 victory. The top-seeded Wolves -- a three-time 6A state champion -- outrushed the 16th-seeded Knights 347-14 and got a 127-yard, 3-touchdown day from junior fullback Carter Evans.
PR's average point total during its 8-1 regular season?
"They're just better than we are," Knights third-year coach Sam Baker said after his squad finished 5-5 after a 1-4 start.
Baker called a trick play on the first play from scrimmage a couple of days after Halloween. But Wolves sophomore defensive back Matt Fryer (2 interceptions) wound up treating his team's fans with a 31-yard return of an interception on a halfback option pass. PR (9-1) scored 3 plays later on a 6-yard TD run by the 6-4, 215-pound Evans, who could easily pass for a tight end -- in college.
"Why not pull out all the stops?" said Baker, standing on the muddy grass field after hugging each of his Knights following the postgame handshakes. "Hey, we were a 16 seed versus a one seed. Prairie Ridge, it's just ... good, a really good team.
"I'm proud of our kids. We weren't intimidated, and we showed good spirit throughout the game."
Prairie Ridge Nation fell silent for several minutes after Evans suffered a serious left-ankle injury at 4:13 of the second quarter. He had just been tackled after a 30-yard run to GN's 8-yard line. He exited the field with assistance from athletic training staffers and did not return.
"We have plenty of others who would be able to shoulder the load if Carter has to sit out for a period of time," Wolves coach Chris Schremp said.
Five PR ball carriers, including Evans, ran for at least 43 yards Saturday afternoon.
Swanson, meanwhile, caught 5 balls -- the non-snowy kind -- for a game-high 94 yards. Knights starting junior quarterback Nick Fish (8-of-12-2, 78 yards) connected with Swanson 4 times; GN freshman QB Jacob Donohue (3-of-5, 53 yards) tossed a 44-yard pass to Swanson on the third play of the fourth quarter, setting up senior Brian Kenebrew's 22-yard TD.
"Joe Swanson is the best receiver I've coached," said Baker, who guided the Knights to a playoff victory in his first season two years ago, after coaching football in Minnesota for four years. "He's got the instincts for the position, 4.45 speed in the 40, and he runs screens so well. He transformed his body; he rocked up, made himself pretty solid.
"I hope he plays college football."
Kenebrew ended up rushing for a team-high 27 yards; junior running back/linebacker Myles Sims, filling in for standout running back C.J. Johnson (season-ending knee injury in Week 9), recovered a Wolves fumble at GN's 10 at the 9:13 mark of the second quarter. Sims took the first handoff on the ensuing possession and gained 4 yards.
Donohue then completed 5- and 4-yard passes to seniors Jeremy Rowder and Jason Hughes, respectively. But the Knights lost yardage on three consecutive plays, the last resulting in a safety. The 2 points upped PR's lead to 23-0.
The Wolves' 40-plus-point advantage at the half triggered a running clock at the start of the third quarter.
"Our team played with hope, with pride," Swanson, also a hoopster, said. "Sure, Prairie Ridge was the better team. But that didn't stop us from playing with a lot of heart."