CHAMPAIGN – Cary-Grove’s players will look back on their season with gratification in how they were able to reach the final day of the season.
And with some frustration at not quite being able to finish the job for which they set out.
The Trojans had their chances Saturday, even against Crete-Monee’s tremendous speed and other-worldly senior Laquon Treadwell. They battled from behind the entire way. They fought back with their offensive home run threat injured and out most of the half.
But ultimately four turnovers were too much to overcome, and C-G lost to the Warriors, 33-26, in the Class 6A state championship football game at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium.
“We just made too many mistakes offensively and weren’t able to take advantage of the times that we did stop them on defense,” C-G coach Brad Seaburg said. “They had some playmakers and they proved that they were the real deal. When it came down to it, we didn’t execute the way we needed to on both sides of the ball. You can’t make mistakes like that.”
C-G (13-1) had its best shot in the third quarter when linebacker Kyle Norberg pried the ball loose from Treadwell and linebacker Matt Hughes recovered at the C-M 21. The Trojans had scored on the previous possession to cut the Warriors’ lead to 21-16. At that point, they were poised to take the lead for the first time, except Treadwell, who is rated as the top receiver in the nation by many scouting services, atoned for his error.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder, who also plays safety, picked off quarterback Quinn Baker’s pass and returned it to the 48. Warriors quarterback Marcus Terrell hit wide receiver Lance Lenoir for a 52-yard score on the next play.
“The interception displays what [Treadwell] brings to the table,” Baker said. “I put it where I normally put it. He made a play that a normal person wouldn’t make.”
Treadwell was near the line of scrimmage before breaking back quickly for the pick. Baker had just thrown a 24-yard scoring pass to Ryan Mahoney on C-G’s previous play.
“I kind of figured they were going to try to hit us with something we weren’t expecting,” Treadwell said. “Once I saw the release, I knew it wasn’t a normal release. I had kind of paused for a second to attack the run.”
Seaburg said the run-oriented Trojans sometimes try a quick throw like that after a takeaway.
“[Treadwell] made some plays on defense we haven’t seen before from a player,” Seaburg said. “That changed things a lot, but we never felt like we were out of it. We never felt like we were out of it when we were down by 17.”
The Warriors (14-0) were in the state championship for the first time and took a 33-16 lead with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter on a fumbled pitch. Baker pitched right before being hit, but he missed running back Joey Scott, who had replaced Mahoney. C-M defensive back Deon Benton eventually scooped up the ball at the 5 and scored.
“Joe knew what he was doing, but we tried to do something a little differently that Ryan might have been better up-to-date on and when that happens in our offense, it’s a big breakdown and it showed,” Baker said.
Still, the Trojans’ defense kept the Warriors from scoring in the fourth quarter, and the offense drove for Baker’s 2-yard touchdown, then set up Garrett Glueck for a 30-yard field goal, making it 33-26.
C-G had one more shot from its 20. On fourth down, Baker’s pass to midfield was headed right for Marszal, but a defender arrived at the same time to swat it away.
The Trojans were trying to win their second Class 6A state title in four years.
“At halftime, we said this game was ours to win as much as theirs,” C-G defensive end Mickey Duncan said. “They scored and we were telling everyone we were not going to give up and we were in this game. We gave it our best effort, but they came out with a win.”
Treadwell carried six times for 93 yards, caught six passes for 85 yards, was involved in 12 tackles and scored two touchdowns. Norberg led the Trojans with 117 yards rushing, although the Warriors’ defense limited C-G to 3.8 yards a carry.
“It was a cool experience to be a part of,” said Marszal, who also played safety. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be down here with, and we would have liked to come out of here with a win, but that’s the way it goes. [Crete-Monee] earned it and we just had too many costly mistakes. We’re still proud of a second-place finish.”