Cary-Grove wins 17th straight playoff opener
A relentless triple-option attack may be the trademark of Cary-Grove, but the Trojans defense showed why it shouldn't be overlooked after a dominant performance against Rockford East on Friday night.
C-G's stingy defense had three take-aways to set up three scoring drives in the first 15 minutes, while the Trojans offense moved up and down the field at will in a runaway 41-8 victory in the teams' Class 6A first-round playoff game at Al Bohrer Field.
Top-seeded Cary-Grove (10-0) advances to play at No. 9-seeded Grayslake Central (8-2), which beat Belvidere North, 27-22, in the second round of the playoffs. No. 16-seeded Rockford East finishes the season with a 5-5 record.
"Our defense has improved a lot as the year has progressed," C-G coach Brad Seaburg said. "We started the year on offense with a lot of guys who had experience in the spring but defensively we had to replace a lot.
"Our defense does get overlooked sometimes, but we've got some really good speed back there and we played really well tonight."
The Trojans wasted little time in grabbing control Friday.
C-G forced a punt on East's first possession and fullback Nick Hissong scored right away, sprinting 56 yards up the middle for a touchdown on the C-G's first play from scrimmage.
After Hissong scored from 2 yards out on C-G's next possession, the Trojans strip-sacked quarterback Ryan Larson to set up a short field. Running back Drew Magel then gave the Trojans a 20-0 lead on a 7-yard run with 1:36 left in the first quarter.
Linebacker Colin Desmet had an interception on East's next possession, and C-G quarterback Jameson Sheehan had the team's fourth touchdown on a 17-yard keeper with 1:21 still left in the first quarter.
The Trojans defense still wasn't done, as linebacker Toby Splitt grabbed an interception for the Trojans' third take-away of the first half, which led to a Magel 19-yard touchdown pass from Sheehan with 8:59 left in the second quarter. Sheehan had a 4-yard touchdown run with 2:50 left in the half for the Trojans' final points.
"It's really important to see our defense give our offense some short yardage out there because they can set up our offense to score earlier," said Splitt, who plays both linebacker and running back. "We can just get it rolling quicker and get more points early.
"I feel like we have a really balanced team. Both sides of the ball really help each other out. Our offense gives us some momentum on those big runs, and our defense sets it up with the short field."
Hissong finished with 142 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Magel had a receiving and rushing touchdown, and Sheehan added 45 yards rushing, two rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown.
For East, Javius Catlin had 73 yards on 13 carries. Deterrace Dotson had 52 yards on 11 carries and scored with 4:53 left in the game for the E-Rab's only points.
C-G held East's offense to only 75 yards in the first half before starters were pulled to start the second half with a running clock.
The Trojans, who have been in the playoffs every year since 2004, have now won 17 straight postseason openers. Some players now on C-G weren't even born when the Trojans started that streak 17 years ago.
"This streak has been going on my whole life," senior offensive lineman Nolan Sharkey said. "I was born in 2004, so it's just been really awesome to see all of these past teams have this great success. We all know it comes from the coaches, and it's just amazing to see it year after year."