CARY – Cary-Grove offensive lineman Zach Petko might have been the most excited player, coach or fan at Al Bohrer Field after running back Drew Magel ran 20 yards untouched into the end zone to start a running clock in the fourth quarter against Lake Forest.
Petko pulled from his position and led the way for Magel, sprinting step-for-step with the speedy running back and taking out two defenders near the goal line.
As his teammates celebrated in the end zone, Petko leaped to his feet, threw his hands in the air and hustled back to the sideline.
Petko, a senior, went all out on his final play at home.
“The only thing on my mind was, ‘We’ve got to score. This is going to be the last play I have at Al Bohrer Field,’ ” Petko said. “He got in, he scored, and that feeling was great. The energy today was great. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
The touchdown run wrapped up another dominant performance across the board for the top-seeded Trojans, who racked up 509 total yards of offense and held Lake Forest’s starters scoreless. C-G defeated the No. 6-seeded Scouts, 40-7, in the Class 6A semifinals to reach the state championship for the sixth time in school history.
C-G (13-0) will face No. 4-seeded East St. Louis (11-2), a 54-13 winner over No. 7-seeded Crete-Monee, at 1 p.m. Nov. 27 at NIU’s Huskie Field in DeKalb. The Trojans, who won state titles in 2009 and 2018, played their past five state title games in Champaign.
“I don’t know if it’s hit me yet,” C-G coach Brad Seaburg said. “I’m just so happy for these kids and for the time and work they’ve put in. It’s been such a long year, between last fall and not being able to play football, and then coming back this fall.
“I’m just so proud of our kids and how they’ve handled these past 18 months. It’s been phenomenal.”
C-G led 20-0 at half and opened the second half with a 7-play, 80-yard drive over 3:34, which ended on a 3-yard touchdown by fullback Nick Hissong. Hissong scored on C-G’s next possession in the third before Magel’s 20-yarder with 9:11 left in the fourth started the running clock.
All four of C-G’s postseason games have ended with a running clock. The Trojans defense is a big reason why.
“Everyone was doing their job and we stayed disciplined,” said senior defensive lineman Nick Wojcik, who had one of two sacks for C-G. “I’ve noticed a huge improvement. Everybody’s locked in from the start. There were some games this year where we didn’t start off on the right foot. We really wanted to change that.”
Hissong led the Trojans with 118 yards and three touchdowns of 7, 3 and 2 yards. Running back Wade Abrams, who was playing for the first time in the playoffs after being held out with an injury, ran for 101 yards on nine carries.
Quarterback Jameson Sheehan had 89 yards rushing and started the scoring Saturday with a 37-yard keeper on C-G’s first possession – giving the Trojans a 7-0 lead with 4:24 remaining in the first quarter. Sheehan also completed 8-of-11 passes for 105 yards.
Magel added 78 yards on seven carries, scoring from 33 and 20 yards out.
Tight end Noah Riley, who was a freshman when the Trojans last went to the state finals, had six catches for 93 yards.
“It’s just such a blessing [to get to state], but it’s all about the work we put in the offseason and practice,” Riley said. “The coaches know what to do every week. They know what it takes to get us to where we are right now.”
The Trojans defense held Lake Forest to 233 yards, with 65 of that coming on the Scouts’ final possession with starters out of the game on both sides. Lake Forest quarterback Leo Scheidler was 5-of-9 passing for 23 yards and had a team-high 77 yards on the ground.
Running back Brock Uihlein had 34 rushing yards and Robert Pasinato had 43 yards – all in the fourth quarter. The Scouts were playing without their top running back, Jahari Scott, who suffered an injury in last week’s 22-21 quarterfinal win over Prairie Ridge.
The Trojans will face their biggest test of the year against East St. Louis (11-2), which started the playoffs with three consecutive shutouts. Both of the Flyers’ losses this year have come out-of-state to nationally-ranked teams.
East St. Louis has won nine state titles, including the last 6A title in 2019 (a 43-21 win over Prairie Ridge).
“This has been our dream since we were 6 years old,” Abrams said. “It was great to come back today, execute and perform.”
Class 6A semifinal
Cary-Grove 40, Lake Forest 7
Lake Forest 0 0 0 7 – 7
Cary-Grove 7 13 13 7 – 40
CG–Sheehan 37 run (Splitt kick), 4:24
CG–Hissong 7 run (Splitt kick), 6:41
CG–Magel 33 run (pass failed), 1:09
CG–Hissong 3 run (Splitt kick), 9:26
CG–Hissong 2 run (kicked failed), 1:59
CG–Magel 20 run (Splitt kick), 9:11
LF–Pasinato 29 run (Popov kick), 3:42
RUSHING–Lake Forest: Scheidler 12-77, Pasinato 3-43, Lindemann 2-6, Uihhlein 8-34, No. 43 10-47, Team 3-minus 5. Total: 38-202. Cary-Grove: Hissong 19-118, Magel 7-78, Abrams 9-101, Sheehan 10-89, Prio 2-19, Team 1-minus 1. Total: 48-404.
PASSING–Lake Forest: Scheidler 5-12-0-23, Pasinato 1-1-0-8. Cary-Grove: Sheehan 8-11-0-105.
RECEIVING–Lake Forest: Stephenson 2-8, Rolander 1-8, Milliman 1-7, Gardner 1-4, Graf 1-4. Cary-Grove: Riley 6-93, Magel 2-12.
TOTAL YARDS: Lake Forest 233, Cary-Grove 509