Cary-Grove holds off Crystal Lake Central to improve to 2-0
Cary-Grove entered Friday's Fox Valley Conference showdown against Crystal Lake Central with tremendous respect for quarterback Jason Penza and the Tigers' superb passing game.
"There's not one receiver lacking on that team," senior linebacker Connor Anderson said. "Penza is an unreal athlete. He can make a play out of nothing. No. 14 (wide receiver George Dimopoulos), some of those catches he made, I can't even imagine.
"But we practiced for it all week and executed on the final drive, and that's all that matters."
Cary-Grove led all the way against Central, but the Tigers made a dramatic comeback attempt after scoring a touchdown with 1:40 remaining, cutting the Trojans' lead to three points.
Central got the ball back after Zach Hykes recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the Trojans defense came up with the final stop it needed to when it rushed Penza out of the pocket on fourth-and-9 from C-G's 25-yard line, and a pass to Drake Tomasiewicz fell incomplete.
The Trojans, who lost their final five games last season, held on for a 17-14 win to improve to 2-0 overall and in the FVC. Central dropped to 0-2, 0-2.
Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg felt relief after the win.
"I was just thinking, 'We've got to stop these guys again?'" Seaburg said of the last drive. "They have so many weapons on offense. I was worried about a lot of their guys, but we got a great rush on (Penza), made him scramble a bit, and ultimately the ball bounced our way.
"Their kids played their butts off and our kids did, too. It was a great high school football game that could have gone either way."
Cary-Grove led 10-7 at halftime and took a 17-7 lead with 6:10 remaining when Trojans junior quarterback Peyton Seaburg connected with tight end Luca Vivaldelli in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard score on fourth-and-goal.
It was only Seaburg's third pass of the game. He threw incompletions on the first two.
"I feel like that was a big statement to score that touchdown," Peyton Seaburg said. "Finding Luca in the end zone, that was awesome. I kind of saw him out of the corner of my eye, he was wide open, and I just threw it. Usually, we hit the fullback on that play, so it was nice misdirection there."
Instead of kicking a field goal, coach Brad Seaburg opted to go for the touchdown.
"It was just a feeling if we score the touchdown there, it's a two-score game and it puts a lot of pressure on (Central)," Brad Seaburg said. "The kids went out and made a great play. Starting off 2-0 is big. It give the kids a lot of confidence in their abilities because they know what quality players Central has."
The Trojans did most of their damage on the ground with 221 yards. Andrew Prio had 91 yards rushing, including a 14-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Peyton Seaburg had 68 yards, and fullback Logan Abrams added 58.
Penza was 30-of-41 passing for 252 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. He completed passes to seven different receivers, with Dimopoulos grabbing six for 88 yards, including a 6-yard TD with 1:40 remaining to set up the onside kick.
Tommy Hammond and Carter Kelley both had 44 yards, Casen Noennig had 36 yards, and Griffin Buehler had 31 yards. Buehler also ran for 79 yards, while Penza had 38 yards rushing.
Central coach Dirk Stanger felt the Tigers let too many opportunities go by.
Right before halftime, C-G defensive back Jack Rocen made a great play, cutting in front of wide receiver Tommy Hammond for an interception at the 4-yard line to keep the Tigers out of the end zone.
PJ Weaver also stood out at defensive back for the Trojans.
"We had the ball inside the 20 four times and didn't score," Stanger said. "When we got the onside kick, we still thought we had it, we had confidence. But protections broke down a little bit. I was proud of our defense tonight. They played lights out. They fought all night and kept us in the game."