CARY – Crystal Lake South junior quarterback Caden Casimino looked off a Cary-Grove safety and threaded a dart into the body of Nate Van Witzenburg.
Van Witzenburg hauled in the pass and walked the last 4 yards into the end zone to erase an 11-point deficit for the Gators in the fourth quarter. South’s defense held the Trojans on their final possession, and the Gators knocked off Cary-Grove, 43-39, on Friday at Al Bohrer Field.
Before Friday, South’s last win against C-G was in 2011, while the Trojans had not lost any game since the 2019 postseason (a stretch of 19 games).
[ Photos: Crystal Lake South vs. Cary-Grove football ]
The Gators celebrated the statement victory together at midfield and then carried it over to the visitors’ bleachers to celebrate some more with fans.
“For three years, I’ve been getting my [butt] kicked by Cary-Grove,” offensive-defensive lineman Nate Compere said. “I’ve been telling everybody at school, ‘This is a different Crystal Lake South team.’ It’s a different mentality, it’s a different attitude. ... [We] wanted it more than ever, and we took it tonight.”
South rallied and scored 14 points in the final 4:23, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 30.9 seconds remaining. Before Van Witzenburg’s touchdown, Casimino found with Colton Hess for a 16-yard score, cutting C-G’s lead to 39-36 with less than five minutes left.
Hess, who also is the team’s kicker, then had a successful onside kick, which set up South for the game-winning score. On the game-winning drive, South had a fourth-and-1 on the Trojans’ 31 and used backup quarterback Brady Schroeder, who just got enough yards on a sneak.
After a 4-yard run by Van Witzenburg and an incomplete pass, Casimino connected with Van Witzenburg for the go-ahead score from 26 yards out.
“We ran the same play on the previous play, and I thought I was open,” Van Witzenburg said. “We came back to the huddle, and Caden said we’re going to run the same play again. I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go.’ I knew I was going to get to that ball. I had all the confidence in the world in Caden.
“It felt awesome. The win, the walk-off [win], it’s indescribable.”
Casimino finished 22-of-29 passing for 379 yards and four touchdowns. He also had a 75-yard score to Michael Prokos (7 catches, 153 yards) in the first quarter and a 23-yard touchdown pass to Hess (5 catches, 77 yards) in the second quarter.
Van Witzenburg finished with 107 yards on 23 carries and added 49 yards on three catches. Casimino ran for 68 yards.
Cary-Grove’s Mykal Kanellakis broke free for a 60-yard touchdown with 3:00 to go in the third quarter, which gave the Trojans a 32-28 lead. C-G got the ball back after an interception by Colin Desmet, and the Trojans scored again to go up 39-28 with 5:46 left on a 16-yard touchdown run by Alex Schuppe.
For Cary-Grove, Desmet finished with 149 rushing yards on 13 attempts, scoring on runs of 1, 71 and 35 yards. Andre Prio had 67 yards on the ground.
Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said the fourth quarter came down to execution.
“I told the kids, it was a great high school football game,” Seaburg said. “Two teams fought hard, and there was effort on both sides. But high school football isn’t just about effort. High school football is about execution. We both had the same amount of touchdowns. They got all their extra points, and we didn’t.
“When it comes down to the wire, you’ve got to execute, and we didn’t.”
Crystal Lake South 43, Cary-Grove 39
CL South 14 14 0 15 – 43
Cary-Grove 13 12 7 7 – 39
CG–Henriques 27 run (run failed), 10:54
CLS–Van Witzenburg 1 run (Hess kick), 6:09
CG–Desmet 1 run (Apgar kick), 1:56
CLS–Prokos 75 pass from Casimino (Hess kick), 1:13
CLS–Hess 23 pass from Casimino (Hess kick), 7:00
CG–Desmet 71 run (run failed), 6:11
CLS–Van Witzenburg 15 run (Hess kick), 2:31
CG–Desmet 35 run (kick blocked), 1:10
CG–Kallenakis 60 run (Apgar kick), 3:00
CG–Schuppe 16 run (Apgar kick), 5:43
CLS–Hess 16 pass from Casimino (Prokos pass from Casimino), 4:23
CLS–Van Witzenburg 26 pass from Casimino (Hess kick), 0:30
RUSHING–Crystal Lake South: Van Witzenburg 23-107, Schroeder 1-minus 1, Demirov 2-12, Casimino 10-68, Team 3-minus 8. Total: 39-178. Cary-Grove: Desmet 13-149, Prio 8-67, Boone 10-41, Kanellakis 1-60, Schuppe 4-25, Seaborg 2-25, Henriquez 1-27. Total: 39-394.
PASSING–Crystal Lake South: Casimino 22-29-1-379. Cary-Grove: Henriques 1-2-0-15, Seaburg 5-8-0-45.
RECEIVING–Crystal Lake South: Prokos 8-156, Schroeder 3-25, Van Witzenburg 3-49, Hess 5-77, Dougherty 2-48, Gorken 1-24. Cary-Grove: Kanellakis 3-41, Desmet 1-5, Hornok 1-10, Prio 1-4.
TOTAL YARDS: Crystal Lake South 557, Cary-Grove 454