Devising a plan to shut down Crete-Monee’s explosive offense has proved to be a tall task for defensive coordinators all season.
It’s a job that starts with figuring out what to do against the nation’s top-ranked wide receiver prospect Laquon Treadwell, but is also one that certainly can’t end there.
Treadwell, ranked as the top wide receiver prospect by several recruiting websites, has 75 catches, 1,339 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns this season. That’s part of the reason why the 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior has garnered the attention of 20 Division I programs, counting Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma, Florida and others among his top suitors.
But couple Treadwell with fellow receiver Lance Lenoir, who has been impressive in his own right (64 catches, 1,046 yards, 14 touchdowns) and the challenge of keeping up with the Warriors’ high-powered offense becomes even more daunting.
Yet it’s one that C-G won’t allow itself to be intimidated by today at Memorial Stadium in Champaign with a 6A state championship on the line.
“I have a lot of faith in myself and my teammates that we’ll find a way to get the job done regardless of how talented their guys are,” Trojans senior cornerback Marcus Thimios said. “It’s going to be a tough challenge, it’s going to be a fun challenge, but I have enough faith to believe we’ll be able to do it.”
How the Trojans will actually do it, though, remains the biggest question mark. It’s something that Treadwell, who also starts at safety for Crete-Monee, ponders on a regular basis. Each day, Treadwell said he considers what he would do if it were up to him to try to contain a Warriors offense averaging more than 40 points a game.
So far, he hasn’t come up with a good answer.
“I think it’s a hard thing to do – I don’t really think there’s a correct way to stop our offense,” Treadwell said. “I think you just have to have the playmakers on the [defensive] side of the ball.”
Cary-Grove prides itself on rising to challenges that on paper at least seem too much to overcome. Between Treadwell and Lenoir (6-foot-1, 172 pounds), the Warriors possess a pair of electrifying playmakers that benefit from the accuracy of quarterback Marcus Terrell, who has completed nearly 67 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,127 yards.
But it’s Crete-Monee’s size and athleticism that makes the Warriors so tough to try and defend.
“Their ability to make a play at any time is the thing that jumps out,” C-G coach Brad Seaburg said. “They can go up and get a ball that our kids are going to struggle to physically (get).
“They make things look very easy.”
Part of the ease lies in the natural ability of Treadwell, who has benefitted from having so many other playmakers around him. Because of the game-changing abilities of Lenoir and a host of running backs – all of whom can make things happen by catching passes out of the backfield – focusing on one source of offensive productivity becomes the biggest danger facing defensive units.
It also makes Treadwell – who Thimios characterizes as a freak athlete – even more dangerous. Even when the physically gifted star receiver isn’t the center of attention for the Warriors.
“I’m very aggressive and even when I don’t have the ball, you still have to look out for me because I’m coming to hit you every play,” Treadwell said. “That’s what makes me different from other people – I block every play – whether it’s on a running play or if the play is going to another receiver. I’m coming after you. I come off the ball the same on every play.”
Yet, as potentially dangerous as Crete-Monee’s offense appears, the Trojans won’t allow intimidation to enter the equation. As many options as the Warriors have at their disposal, Seaburg said Crete-Monee must also contend with C-G’s triple-option offense that Lake Forest had no answers for in last week’s 6A semifinals.
Still, knowing a big part of winning a state title comes down to defense, the Trojans must try and limit the big-play effectiveness of a Warriors’ offense C-G players insist is the most talented they’ve seen all season.”
“Our coaches have taught us to accept the challenge,” senior defensive back Zach Marszal said. “As defensive backs, as a group, we’re excited to go against [Crete-Monee] because of how good they are.
“It’s probably the best challenge we could get, but that’s what we want playing in a state championship game. You want to beat the best to be the best.”