CRYSTAL LAKE – Critical games often are decided with critical plays. In Crystal Lake Central’s showdown against Grayslake North on Friday, it was a critical drive.
An illegal motion penalty on a second-and-7 on the Knight’s 10-yard line, in the middle of Central’s first third-quarter possession, hurt. Then the Tigers, down by a score, picked up a holding call and another flag for illegal motion, and what looked like a sure scoring drive turned into their undoing.
When Central capped the possession with a missed 40-yard field goal attempt, the important Fox Valley Conference Fox Division game swung heavily in the Knights’ favor. Mistakes against Grayslake North cannot easily be erased, and the little things cost the Tigers dearly in a 32-20 loss to the Knights.
The victory ensured Grayslake North its first postseason appearance in school history, and it kept Central from securing one.
“That [drive] was the turning point in the game,” Central coach Matt Fralick said. “We get a TD there and we’re within one score. Without that we became pretty one dimensional at the end.”
The missed field goal and penalities were accompanied by other missteps such as missing defensive signals, a missed extra point and dropped passes, all of which marred what had been a good start for Central.
The Tigers tied the score at 7 on a 1-yard run from Darwin Stone with 7 minutes 22 seconds left in the second quarter, then went ahead 14-7 on wide receiver Isaiah Mosher’s 56-yard run off an end around with 5:51 left before halftime.
Knights quarterback phenom A.J. Fish answered just before the break when he hit running back Charlie Pine for a 47-yard touchdown reception. Fish connected with running back Brad Baker for a 37-yard score on the Knights’ first drive of the third quarter to give them a 20-14 advantage.
Fish finished the game 15 for 27 with 250 yards, and rushed for 71 yards on 21 carries, which is considered modest for the mobile quarterback.
“He’s an athlete and that’s what they do,” Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said. “When you have an athlete like him, you take one aspect away and you have the other.”
Central quarterback Kyle Lavand found Mosher for a 55-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that cut the Tigers’ deficit to six, 26-20, but Fish’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Diggs secured the final margin.
The loss could mean the Tigers are in jeopardy of losing their FVC Fox Division title, which they shared last year with Grayslake Central. The Knights (6-1, 4-0) and the Tigers (5-2, 3-1) each have two games left, but the race is pressure is much higher now than Fralick would have liked. should they lose at least one of the two remaining games and the Tigers (5-2, 3-1) win out.
“Anything could happen,” said Fralick, “but it’s disappointing. We controlled our own destiny and just didn’t get it done tonight.”