CL South rebounds with win over rival
Crystal Lake South junior quarterback Caden Casimino admitted to some pregame nerves before the Gators took the field against his old team, Crystal Lake Central.
"Just some butterflies going in, but once we scored our first touchdown, I knew that was it," said Casimino, who transferred from Central and won the Gators' starting QB job in the summer. "It was all good from there."
It didn't take long for Casimino to get rolling Friday night.
After Nate Compere tackled Central quarterback George Dimopoulos in the end zone for a safety on the Tigers' first possession, Casimino and the Gators offense got to work.
Casimino, the Northwest Herald area's leading passer, hooked up with Michael Prokos, the area's leading receiver, for a 49-yard touchdown on a quick four-play drive.
South went on to score five touchdowns in the first half and cruised to a 50-22 win against Central in their Fox Valley Conference game at the Swamp. With the victory, the Gators (4-2, 4-2 FVC) moved one win away from being playoff eligible.
Casimino was an efficient 17-of-22 passing for 258 yards and four touchdowns and added 38 yards on the ground and a 1-yard score.
South coach Rob Fontana was ecstatic with the play of his quarterback.
"I thought we were going to be a little hyped, maybe overthrowing balls," Fontana said. "But what I saw from him is a kid who seemed under control and in the flow of the game from the first snap of the game. He's always such an even-keel player. He's never high, he's never low. I loved to see it because you never know where it could have gone. It's an emotional game."
Casimino connected with five different receivers in the victory. Prokos had 93 yards on six catches and two scores, Colton Hess had 59 yards on four catches, including a 34-yard touchdown, and running back Nate Van Witzenburg had 48 yards on three catches and a score.
Brady Schroeder added 50 yards on three catches, while Van Witzenburg also had a big game on the ground with 176 yards on 18 attempts, including a long run of 70 yards, and a touchdown.
Casimino said the opening touchdown to Prokos, where Casimino was flushed out of the pocket and Prokos made an adjustment as the ball was in the air, helped calm any worries.
South was coming off a tough 24-20 loss to Burlington Central in Week 5, which snapped a three-game winning streak.
"Right when he caught it, it was a great adjustment on his part," Casimino said. "Good job by our O-line protecting and that gave us all the momentum. This [win] is huge. We've just got to take it one step at a time and stay hungry.
"[Losing to Burlington Central] definitely hurt, but we flushed it and moved on to Central. Now we've got McHenry [next week]."
South also got big defensive games from a number of players. Compere had the safety on Central's opening possession, Dan Zebrowski scored on a 30-yard fumble return, and Kyle Kuffel and AJ Demirov both had interceptions.
"Those are the little things that we preach all year," Fontana said. "Always trying to be in those lanes and creating plays and getting that spark and energy. Rallying to the ball, they were everywhere tonight."
For the Tigers (2-4, 2-4), Dimopoulos was 10-of-24 passing for 148 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, and Vince Honer had 137 rushing yards on 27 attempts. Tommy Hammond (47 yards receiving) and Graham Reckamp (10 yards) both caught touchdowns.
Central's top receiver, Griffin Buehler, was forced from the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury.
The Tigers will try and regroup next week against Burlington Central.
"They've got very good skill players, and we knew that coming in," Central coach Dirk Stanger said. "It's a lot of adversity that our team has faced all season, but the kids keep fighting. All we can do is keep fighting. The playoffs for us start next week, and that's the mentality we have to take."