Cary-Grove rolls past Grayslake Central, into 6A quarterfinals
Grayslake Central owned the first 6 minutes. Cary-Grove owned the rest.
The Trojans recovered quickly from a rough opening drive to roll past the ninth-seeded Rams 55-27 in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs Friday night.
Hoping to accomplish its deepest playoff run in school history, Grayslake Central (8-3) came out hot, going 67 yards on 11 plays. Quarterback Daryl Overstreet was 4-for-4 on the drive before Luca Maravola scored from 5 yards out with 6:22 left to make it 7-0.
From that point forward, Cary-Grove didn't break form.
After a lightning quick 52-yard touchdown pass from Jameson Sheehan to Noah Riley -- C-G's only pass of the game -- tied the game, that same defense that gave up the long drive started to set the tone.
On second and 7, a tipped pass found the hands of Toby Splitt. He found blocks and hit the sideline, going 37 yards for a huge pick six to make it 14-7 less than two minutes after that opening drive.
"(Drew Borzych) made a great play on the ball and tipped it straight up," said Splitt of his first pick six. "It fell right into my hands, and once I got it, the only thought in my mind was to get to the end zone.
"Those turnovers are great because they work both ways. It means the defense can get off the field, and it's a real big momentum changer. It gets everyone excited and give the offense great field position."
That turnover started a string of monumental drives from the defense. Twice the Trojans (11-0) stuffed the Rams on fourth down -- once in Grayslake Central's own territory -- while another drive ended in a three-and-out. Grayslake Central was 0-for-4 on fourth down in the game and turned the ball over twice, the second being an interception by Colin Desmet. One of those fourth-down stops came on the C-G 1-yard line late in the first half.
"I think those stops all made a big statement," Splitt said. "Defensively we knew we needed to fix some things right after they scored. So, once we got back on the field we knew we had to get a stop quick. ... Overall that just has a huge impact on our whole team."
Those short fields set up the biggest game of fullback Nick Hissong's career. He scored the next 4 Trojans touchdowns, including a 54-yarder on the first play of the second half, as they put the game out of reach at 41-7.
Hissong racked up 90 yards on 7 carries. Teammate Andrew Prio led Cary-Grove with 99 yards on the ground and a 54-yard scoring run of his own. Holden Boone also scored.
"I think we all work on not necessarily big plays, but trying to perfect every play we have, and the big plays just come from them," Hissong said. "I think the main thing was just the offensive line's blocking. The O-line was just getting tons of push and creating really good alleys for all the backs, not just me."
Coach Brad Seaburg was impressed with the way his team answered after the opening score.
"That stop before halftime was huge," he said. "Coming into a game like this, guys are excited, and we just kind of had to get refocused on the sideline. Once we did that, we just kind of took over the game."
Grayslake Central had a few big plays from receiver Kaiden Moore late in the fourth quarter. He caught touchdown passes of 39 yards and 24 yards from quarterback Darryl Overstreet. He finished with 10 receptions for 148 yards.
Overstreet, who was 24-of-34 passing for 315 yards, also connected with Kurt Heerdegen for a 62-yard score.
"My hat's off to Cary-Grove and everything they've got going there," said Grayslake Central coach Mike Maloney. "They are something that we aspire to be like. "Those critical downs, that's been our M.O. all year. They had a well-coached team, and we made a couple of mistakes that are uncharacteristic, and we got beat on those."
Cary-Grove now will face a familiar foe in the quarterfinals, as Crystal Lake Central defeated Deerfield, 14-7.