CRYSTAL LAKE – Prairie Ridge’s football players were concerned they had fallen off the radar.
Last week’s overtime loss to Cary-Grove to end the regular season seemed to ebb some of the attention surrounding the Wolves’ playoff-opening game against Marmion on Saturday.
It would have been difficult to overlook Prairie Ridge, given it was the top-ranked Class 6A team in the state before the loss to C-G. But to ensure their place in the state finals contention conversation, the Wolves dismantled the Cadets, 49-0, in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Prairie Ridge will face Glenbard South on Saturday in Glen Ellyn. The Wolves beat the Raiders, 55-12, in the season opener Aug. 26.
“We wanted to make a statement,” senior linebacker Brad Simms said. “We felt like everyone kind of forgot about us as soon as we lost, so we really wanted to come out and make a statement, and I think we did.”
The Wolves (9-1) stumbled early – they fumbled away their first possession of the game – but atoned quickly. Marmion (5-5) recovered the fumble on the Wolves’ 9-yard line, but Prairie Ridge’s defense forced the Cadets to try for a field goal.
The kick was blocked by Sean Folliard, and the Cadets never seriously threatened again. Quarterback Nick Nissen marched Prairie Ridge down the field, capped the series with a 16-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 advantage with 7 minutes left in the first quarter, and the Wolves rolled.
“It wasn’t a perfect game, but the defense came up huge,” said Nissen who scored four touchdowns. “ ... We wanted to get our confidence back and pull through a big win.”
Senior running back Connor Greenwald (11 carries, 146 yards) punched in a 4-yard touchdown with 2:44 left in the first quarter that made it 14-0, and Nissen scored with 10:23 left in the second quarter to make it 21-0.
Nissen also scored on runs of 1 and 2 yards in the second quarter, and junior running back Jordan Getzelman scored on a 13-yard run that made it 42-0 at the end of the first half to force a running clock for the rest of the game.
Getzelman finished the Wolves’ offensive explosion with a 17-yard touchdown at the 6:18 mark in the third quarter.
It was the third time this year the Wolves’ defense had shut out its opponent, but the first time they had forced a team to go three-and-out in every series, save one. The Cadets were awarded an automatic first down because of an unsportsmanlike conduct flag against the Wolves in the second quarter, but couldn’t do anything with their fresh set of downs.
Prairie Ridge also held the Cadets to 20 total yards of offense, and didn’t allow quarterbacks Charlie Faunce and Dan DiBartolo enough time to even think about passing, much less do it. The two combined to go 0 for 6 with one interception – a first-quarter grab by Prairie Ridge outside linebacker Corey Peterson.
“We were really bummed out because we gave up a lot of yards to Cary,” Simms said. “We were really focused this week at practice, everyone was really busting it. I think that showed today.”