McDonald difference for Trojans
District and conference rivals Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge have used the same offense — the triple-option — to rise to statewide prominence in the last decade.
Samson Evans, the 2017 Sun-Times Player of the Year, was the special ingredient that gave the Wolves an edge the last few seasons. His heroics led Prairie Ridge to a last-second victory against the Trojans in the Class 6A state playoffs last season.
On Friday in Crystal Lake, quarterback Ben McDonald tipped the scale Cary-Grove’s way. The No. 13 Trojans beat the No. 20 Wolves 21-14 to win the Fox Valley.
‘‘[McDonald’s passing ability] was the difference in this game, stretching them out a little bit and making them play a little softer,’’ Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. ‘‘His ability to get the ball in the right spots has been huge for us.’’
McDonald has thrown more passes than any Trojans quarterback in the last eight seasons. He was 10-for-13 for 158 yards and a touchdown. McDonald has been very accurate all season. He has thrown 15 touchdown passes and only one interception in 2018 and has thrown a combined five incompletions — 32-for-37 — in the last four games.
Quinn Priester, a 6-3 senior, is his favorite target. Priester had four catches for 75 yards.
‘‘[McDonald] is a big kid,’’ Cary-Grove senior Danny Daigle said. ‘‘I knew he could run the ball, but I didn’t expect him to pass as well as he has. He’s been phenomenal.’’
McDonald is a bruising runner. No yards came easy in what was a battle in the trenches. He had 22 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown, a one-yard run with 2:57 left that proved to be the game-winning score.
‘‘This is always going to be a hard, bruising game,’’ McDonald said. ‘‘Every single game between us is a huge battle.’’
Prairie Ridge (6-2, 5-2) led 14-0 before the Trojans (8-0, 8-0) scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to Daigle with 12 seconds left in the first half.
‘‘That was huge,’’ Seaburg said. ‘‘It gave us momentum. It gave the kids some fight. And in the second half, we really controlled things on offense and defense.’’
The Trojans held Wolves star running back Jackson Willis to 40 yards on 16 carries.
‘‘That’s amazing,’’ Seaburg said. ‘‘He’s averaged over 200 yards a game this year. There is a reason why Willis has run for 1,400 yards: No one has ever tackled him. Once we tackled him, they went to the third part of the option.’’
Daigle had eight carries for 56 yards and four catches for 43 yards.
‘‘I’m hurting real bad right now,’’ Daigle said. ‘‘But we knew we weren’t out of it. We don’t have any quit in us. We made some adjustments and kept executing and doing our jobs.’’
‘‘[Daigle] is the ultimate warrior,’’ Seaburg said. ‘‘He’s banged up and was cramping there at the end. I think he had a stinger. You’re not going to be able to take that kid off the field, though.’’
Ethan Kirchberg — that ‘‘third part’’ of the option, had 10 carries for 71 yards for Prairie Ridge. Quarterback Connor Lydon was 5-for-11 for 82 yards with one touchdown.
Cary-Grove is tied with Richards atop the Associated Press’ Class 6A state rankings. But after the last few seasons, it has been hard for observers around the state to look past Prairie Ridge. That changed Friday.
‘‘This just sends a statement,’’ McDonald said. ‘‘We beat the two-time defending state champions. It’s the first time I’ve ever beaten Prairie Ridge.’’
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Cary-Grove quarterback Ben McDonald completed 10 of 13 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown Friday against Prairie Ridge.