LAKE ZURICH – Slowing down Cary-Grove by preventing long, explosive plays is only part of the battle, as Lake Zurich found out first-hand.
The Bears’ defense did a commendable job, limiting the Trojans to three plays of 20 or more yards. But it only meant that C-G’s triple-option held the ball on long scoring drives and ate up more time.
“We joked that when you play an offense like this, ‘You want to die quickly or die by a thousand cuts?’ " Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said.
C-G’s other three playoff foes suffered the former. The Bears were victims of the latter in a 28-10 Trojans’ victory in their Class 6A playoff semifinal Saturday at Mel Eide Field.
Fullback Logan Abrams ran 26 times for 166 yards and all four C-G touchdowns and the No. 3-seeded Trojans (11-2) advanced to the title game against East Louis, a 34-18 winner over Washington in the other semifinal. The championship will be at 1 p.m. next Saturday at Illinois State University’s Hancock Stadium.
Lake Zurich, the top seed in the northern half of 6A, finished 11-2.
“Most of the season we’ve really had long runs,” Trojans coach Brad Seaburg said. “In the playoffs we’ve had 50-yard runs and 60-yard runs. We didn’t have many today, they played really well defensively. We found another way to win today. it was great.”
C-G is 3-0 in its last three semifinals and will play in the title game for a seventh time in school history, its third in five years. The Trojans won state titles in 2018 and 2021.
Abrams broke loose for a 25-yard run on C-G’s first possession and running back Andrew Prio went for 29 on his first carry. But the only 20-yard run after that came from running back Holden Boone in the second half.
That just meant a healthy advantage in time of possession for C-G, which had the ball for more than 32 of the 48 minutes.
“We felt if we could get them to keep going and keep going, eventually they would make a mistake, and they had some holding penalties, illegal shifts, a fumble at the end, getting in some long-yardage situations,” Planz said. “The problem was when we got them into those tough situations, we didn’t finish.”
Abrams ran for a touchdown in each quarter. The Trojans led 14-3 at halftime and delivered a soul-crushing drive on the first possession of the second half. They went 80 yards in 19 plays, converting after a third-and-27 with a 17-yard Prio run and an 11-yard pass from quarterback Peyton Seaburg to tight end Luca Vivaldelli.
C-G went up 21-3 on Abrams’ 7-yard run to cap that drive, making it 21-3 with 2:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Abrams added a 19-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to really seal the game.
“Really, it’s my offensive line,” Abrams said. “I couldn’t do anything without them. It would be awful. It all starts with them.”
Lake Zurich scored with 2:12 remaining on running back Chris Pirrone’s 4-yard run, but it was too late.
C-G’s offense has been so efficient that it has not punted in four playoff games. Peyton Seaburg did punt in the first half, but a Bears defender ran into him, giving the Bears a first down to extend the drive.
C-G is now 16-1 in its last 17 playoff games, going back to the 2018 championship season. The Trojans lost in the 2019 quarterfinals to Prairie Ridge 14-13, then won the 2021 championship and missed the playoffs last season at 3-6.
“We just had to execute. Everybody had to do their job,” C-G linebacker Connor Anderson said. “We knew this was not going to be an easy game at all. They were not going to roll over, this was going to be a battle to the end.
“We had to stick through every assignment and execute every detail we had. We played really well as a team, took advantage of opportunities and got it done. It’s a tremendous feeling. This is the goal coming out every year. Especially after last year, it’s a good feeling coming back.”
C-G’s defense has allowed only 52 points in four playoff games. The Trojans held Lake Zurich to 255 total yards.
“It feels unreal. It’s been a lot of hard work and a long time coming,” defensive lineman Kyle Jarecki said. “What we had to do was stick to our basic assignments and trust each other as a team. Just keep pushing.”
Peyton Seaburg ran for 72 yards, Prio had 61 and Boone added 57. C-G’s first three scoring drives went for 89, 80 and 80 yards.
“We were able to grind out some long drives,” Brad Seaburg said. “Logan had some real tough runs. They’re big and physical. Playing a team that runs the option like Belvidere North, who runs the option, last week they were able to correct some of the things they did wrong.
“We were able to just get enough. Logan ran really hard today.”
Anderson is the one remaining starter from the 2021 state championship team, which defeated East St. Louis 37-36. Now, he and the Trojans get another shot.
“There’s nothing like it. I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else,” Anderson said. “It’s how this program works. We expect to be here. We expect to compete every time we play. Going back to another state championship is awesome. It’s great to be back.”
CLASS 6A PLAYOFF SEMIFINAL
Cary-Grove 28, Lake Zurich 10
Cary-Grove 7 7 7 7 – 28
Lake Zurich 0 3 0 7 – 10
CG–Abrams 8 run (Apgar kick), 4:45.
LZ–FG Vilchis 25, 10:49.
CG–Abrams 3 run (Apgar kick), 1:42.
CG–Abrams 7 run (Apgar kick), 2:18.
CG–Abrams 19 run (Apgar kick), 8:14.
LZ–Pirrone 4 run (Vilchis kick), 2:12.
RUSHING–Cary-Grove: Abrams 26-166, Seaburg 15-72, Prio 7-61, Boone 7-57, Diaz 0-1, Team 2-minus 2. Totals: 58-355. Lake Zurich: Pirrone 18-89, Lappin 11-34, Peshek 1-5, Team 1-minus 2. Totals: 31-128.
PASSING–Cary-Grove: Seaburg 1-1-0-11. Lake Zurich: Lappin 14-21-0-144.
RECEIVING–Cary-Grove: Vivaldelli 1-11. Lake Zurich: Piggott 8-80, Peshek 3-35, Pirrone 1-12, Oblakov 1-7.
TOTAL TEAM YARDS–Cary-Grove 366, Lake Zurich 272.