With a berth in the Class 6A semifinals on the line, Saturday’s quarterfinal between the Crystal Lake Central Tigers and Cary-Grove Trojans turned into a defensive struggle of epic proportions. The two teams combined for just one touchdown, which came at the end of the first half as top-seeded Cary-Grove (12-0) escaped at home with a 7-0 win to move on to next week’s semifinal at No. 10 seed Lake Forest.
It was a battle where both teams got close to scoring but were denied each time around before Ryan Mahoney scored on an eight-yard run with 21 seconds left in the first half for the lone score of the contest. No. 4 seed Crystal Lake Central (9-3) got inside the Cary-Grove 20 on four different occasions but could never get into the endzone with a missed field goal, a fake field goal that didn’t work, an interception and a turnover on downs. The Tigers got three fourth-quarter turnovers by the Trojans as Cary tried to run the clock out but the final drive by Central came up short on a fourth down pass that was knocked down at the five-yard line.
Mahoney finished with 68 yards rushing on 11 carries but Cary-Grove was led by Kyle Norberg on the ground as Norberg rushed 31 times for 133 yards but fumbled twice in the fourth quarter to keep hope alive for the Tigers. Kyle Havand threw for 115 yards but was intercepted in the final quarter with Central driving. Jack Ortner and Isaiah Mosher each finished with six catches for the Tigers, who finished with their best run into playoff action in school history.