Created:Sunday, September 15, 2013 3:59 p.m.CDT
Updated:Sunday, September 15, 2013 11:10 p.m.CDT
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Cary-Grove football players breathe easier after first win

Huntley's Brandon Altergott cannot hold on to a pass late in the fourth quarter as Cary-Grove's Willie Hartke defends with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter Friday in Huntley. C-G won, 16-13. (H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)

The atmosphere was drastically different Saturday morning at Cary-Grove’s Al Bohrer Field.

When C-G’s football players filed into their Alumni Building, they had a little more bounce in their steps and smiles on their faces after what had transpired less than 12 hours earlier.

“It takes a load off our back to get that first one,” Trojans quarterback Jason Gregoire said. “Everyone was so much more excited. Everyone was in a lot better mood.”

C-G defeated host Huntley, 16-13, Friday night in dramatic fashion, scoring the game-winner on Gregoire’s 60-yard pass to receiver Larkin Hanselmann with 2:08 remaining. For the Class 6A state runner-up a year ago, it could have been a season-turning play and victory.

“It kind of gives us peace of mind and gives us a lot of confidence,” guard Michael Gomez said. “It gives us confidence in what we can do. Those first two games were tough. It showed the character of our team and how we perform under pressure.”

C-G (1-2 overall, 1-0 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division) lost to Wheaton North and Lake Zurich, two of the top-ranked teams in Class 7A, in its first two games. Falling to 0-3 would not have been the end of the season, but it would have been an even deeper hole for a team with 17 new starters.

“A lot of the things we’ve been stressing, discipline and working hard and fighting through adversity, that comes to fruition more when you actually win, rather than coming close,” Trojans coach Brad Seaburg said. “It shows what our coaching staff is trying to instill works, and now you believe a little bit more.”

C-G, the defending Valley champion, and Huntley, a program aspiring to overtake that spot, provided a great atmosphere Friday. Seaburg likened it to C-G’s game at Prairie Ridge in the 2011 regular-season finale, a game C-G won, 22-21, in overtime, which was the only blemish on the state champion Wolves’ record that year.

“From an excitement standpoint, it was pretty close,” Seaburg said. “The situation was like that, where it wasn’t looking good for us and we were able to come through.”

Gregoire lauded Connor Leach for stepping in for injured cornerback Kevin Fisher. Seaburg talked about Hanselmann’s clutch catches on punts and his punting, which helped C-G hold a field-position advantage.

Seaburg also spoke of running back Matt Sutherland’s work on offense and defense. Sutherland, pressed into work in the offensive backfield by injuries to Joe Scott and Zach McQuade, had an 80-yard run wiped out by a penalty.

“It shows the overall toughness of our team,” Gregoire said. “We never gave up.”

The Trojans finally get their first home game at 7:15 p.m. Friday against Dundee-Crown, but this is a vastly different Chargers team. D-C (3-0, 1-0) is unbeaten at this point in the season for the first time since 1993.

“Their offense is really good, they have a good offensive line and really good backs,” Gregoire said. “This is a real challenge for our defense. We had three tough games, and this is a tough fourth game, too. We can’t overlook them. They’re a hungry team.”