The Northwest Herald continues a tradition when a local football team is playing for a state championship with a daily journal from a player on the team. Six Cary-Grove players will share their thoughts each day leading up to Saturday’s Class 6A title game at 1 p.m. in Champaign against Crete-Monee. Today is senior wide receiver-safety Zach Marszal.
Walking into that first practice of two-a-days, we all had hope of a state championship team, but at that time we were all unsure of how good we really were.
Those two weeks of practice felt like forever. Finally, our first game against St. Charles East had arrived. We won, 49-33, and the first-game jitters were out of the way. The run to a state championship had begun.
The next two weeks we beat two highly regarded teams in the state – Lake Zurich and Fox Valley Conference rival Crystal Lake South. At this point, all my teammates and I had realized we could be a part of something special. We rolled through the next few games, beating Hampshire, Jacobs, McHenry, Huntley, then Dundee-Crown. All that stood in our way from a perfect regular season was Prairie Ridge.
It was our senior night and we wanted to complete the goal of an undefeated regular season. It was a hard-fought game and we came out on top. Two goals were done: conference champions and undefeated regular season.
Next came the playoffs. We sat in Patrick O’Malley’s basement watching the playoff pairings. We saw we were the No. 1 seed and were very happy with that, but at that point, records didn’t matter. Everyone was even at this point. Rockford Auburn came first and we beat them pretty handily, advancing us to the second round of the playoffs where we faced off with a battle-tested St. Patrick team.
We came out fired up for that game. Kyle Norberg scored on our first offensive play and we never looked back. It was such an unbelievable win. Then came the quarterfinals. We played District 155 foe Crystal Lake Central in the closest game we played all year. The defense had to lift the offense, but we held strong and won, 7-0.
We could taste Champaign then. One more win to get there. Lake Forest stood in our way. I had never been so nervous before a game. We came out and scored on our second offensive play … and kept on scoring.
When the game was over, it hit me that we are now one win away from a goal, a dream, a state championship. I have so many mixed emotions about this week because we have finally made it here, but it’s my last week of football ever. Win or lose, I could not be more proud to be a part of this team. We have done so much together, and this experience will stick with me forever.
Hopefully we can become one of two state champions in Cary-Grove history.