Cary-Grove's defense shines in shutout win over McHenry
Cary-Grove's offense did not run with its usual proficiency, which could have meant trouble against McHenry and its formidable passing game.
But the Trojans defense stepped in and said, "We got this."
On seven occasions, the Warriors moved to C-G's 30-yard line or farther. And every time the Trojans found a way to keep McHenry out of the end zone.
"It was phenomenal. The defense set the tone early," C-G linebacker Connor Anderson said. "Right from the start, we played phenomenal. The offense took a little time to get things going, but by the end they got it going. The defense played its best game yet for sure."
With 4 interceptions, 4 sacks and 1 fumble recovery, the Trojans came through for an 18-0 victory over the Warriors Saturday in their Fox Valley Conference game at Al Bohrer Field.
On McHenry's second drive, it was Anderson shooting through to sack McHenry quarterback Dom Caruso when the Warriors reached C-G's 11. On the next drive, linebacker Will Barcy scooped up a fumble after the Warriors made it to C-G's 15.
As Anderson said, the tone was set.
"That's they way our program has been formed," wide receiver-defensive back Mykal Kanellakis said. "The offense might have a bad day, but the defense is there to step it up. The defense may have a bad day and the offense steps it up. That's how we do it."
C-G, No. 10 in The Associated Press Class 6A poll, moved to 3-1, 3-1 FVC. McHenry (0-4, 0-4) was left with the empty feeling of being in the game with another conference heavyweight and coming up short.
"Our kids play so hard. They play hard enough to win and deserve to win, but we didn't execute well enough to win," Warriors coach Joel Beard said. "That's just what it is. I'm pretty sure Cary-Grove's saying we can execute better.
"We're not consistent. We didn't execute very well. There were too many turnovers. (C-G) plays hard and were sound. We had to go earn it and we didn't necessarily earn it this time."
Defensive back Gavin Henriques stopped 2 drives with interceptions, Anderson and Colin Desmet also had picks. In the final 2 minutes, PJ Weaver dragged down McHenry running back Dylan Drumheller at the 1 to preserve C-G's first shutout since a 44-0 win over Oswego East in Week 6 of the 2021 spring season.
The Trojans lost a fumble and had a pass intercepted in the first half as well. McHenry outgained C-G, 200-86, in the first half, but trailed 6-0.
The Trojans took advantage of favorable field position in the third quarter after stopping the Warriors at their 44. Three plays later, quarterback Peyton Seaburg hit fullback Colin Desmet with a swing pass and he took it 37 yards for a touchdown.
Desmet set up C-G's final score with a long interception return. Running back Andrew Prio scored from a yard out to make it 18-0. C-G missed all 3 extra-point kicks.
Anderson thought the defense played its best game yet.
"In all, the pressure on the quarterback was key," Anderson said. "He's a really good quarterback and hasn't thrown a lot of picks. Our pressure really helped our DBs make the big plays."
Sophomore defensive end Charlie Ciske had 2 of the Trojans' 4 sacks.
"The big thing before each play we kept moving around so they wouldn't know how to make calls and how to handle us," Ciske said. "We wanted them to be unsure with what we were doing, not giving them the same package.
"Pass rush can get better, coverage can get better. Everything can get better. The offense did what we needed it to do and got points on the board. We just want to keep getting better each day."
Caruso finished with 244 passing yards and wide receiver Jacob Zarek caught 7 passes for 157 yards.