McDon­ald dif­fer­ence for Tro­jans

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - MICHAEL O’BRIEN mo­brien@sun­times.com | @michael­so­brien

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.’’

Want the lat­est in­for­ma­tion and anal­y­sis on high school foot­ball? Our team of Michael O’Brien, Beth Long and An­nie Costa­bile will share the lat­est news, in­sights and weekly Su­per 25 rank­ings in a livestream show called ‘‘Sun-Times Game Week’’ at 4:30 p.m. ev­ery Mon­day. Like and fol­low our high school sports Face­book page and watch the show on Face­book Live. You also can ask ques­tions us­ing #sun­times­game­week.

ALLEN CUN­NING­HAM/FOR THE SUN-TIMES

Cary-Grove quar­ter­back Ben McDon­ald com­pleted 10 of 13 passes for 158 yards and a touch­down Fri­day against Prairie Ridge.

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