CRYSTAL LAKE – Cary-Grove’s memory of dynamic defensive efforts of the past at Prairie Ridge Athletic Stadium prevented any complacency.
The Trojans threw up a brick wall in front of Prairie Ridge Friday night, but C-G coaches remembered the Wolves’ late drive and Cullen Fahey’s 42-yard game-winning field goal on the final play in 2007.
And coaches and players both recalled Prairie Ridge’s hook-and-lateral play that forced overtime in 2011, a game which C-G eventually won in overtime, 22-21.
“We couldn’t get ahead of ourselves,” Trojans defensive end Emerson Kersten said. “One slip-up, and one big play could do it. We kept looking forward to each play and stopping them on that play.”
That mindset was ideal. C-G limited Prairie Ridge to 54 total yards and forced five turnovers in a 6-0 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division victory, the Trojans’ third consecutive win.
“The defense did make me feel good, but we’ve witnessed a couple of strange things here,” Trojans coach Brad Seaburg said. “We knew it could have come down to one play. Our defense was just unbelievable. They’re so fast. They really get to the ball fast. We know about [the defense] because we see them in practice all week.”
C-G (3-2 overall, 3-0 FVC Valley) is one-half game ahead of Jacobs in the division standings. Its offense gained 242 total yards, with freshman fullback Tyler Pennington carrying 34 times for 175 yards.
But the Trojans stalled on drives deep in Wolves’ territory twice in the first half and freshman kicker Collin Walsh made field goals of 25 and 22 yards. That was enough for C-G’s swarming defense.
“We just had to execute what we do on a daily basis in practice,” Kersten said. “Just get to the ball like we do. We communicated very well.”
Pennington has 306 yards in his two starts, but the Trojans’ offense was far from satisfied.
“It’s frustrating when we have 80- and 60-yard drives and then we can’t punch it in because of breakdowns,” C-G offensive tackle Trevor Ruhland said. “Our defense played outstanding. They held a pretty good team to zero points. We need to get back to work. We have [running back] Zach [McQuade] coming back and we’ve won three in a row.”
Willie Hartke, Matt Sutherland and Larkin Hanselmann all had interceptions for the Trojans, who allowed only three first downs for the game. C-G ran 68 offensive plays to Prairie Ridge’s 33. The Wolves (2-3, 1-2) have been shut out in two of their last three games.
“Our defense played phenomenally,” Wolves coach Chris Schremp said. “We couldn’t ask for them to do much more than what they did.”
Schremp started sophomore Luke Annen at quarterback, but junior Brett Covalt, who was starter to begin the season, replaced him in the second half. The Wolves just had no answer for C-G’s defensive speed.
“Their defense is so fast,” Schremp said. “It’s unbelievable how fast they are. We want to play fast, but we couldn’t play as fast as they did. They were playing at one speed and we were two steps slow.”