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For the first time in program history, Crystal Lake Central is heading to the quarterfinals after defeating Grant 30-13 in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
The Tigers (9-2) were led by their rushing attack and their stout defense.
Crystal Lake complied 203 rushing yards on 48 attempts while their defense allowed Grant 181 total yards.
The Tigers offensive line shoved away defenders to open holes up for junior running back Connor Hines, who finished the game with 92 rushing yards, and two touchdowns.
After the game, Hines praised his teammates. “Our whole offensive line came together. It made our momentum throughout the whole game,” Hines said.
It was Hine’s first running touchdown on a one-yard gain put Crystal Lake up early in the first quarter.
The Tigers scored in the second quarter when senior running back Tyler Jenkins converted a touchdown run up the middle to extend the lead to 14-0.
Grant (8-3) made the game interesting before halftime when it forced a fumble at the Crystal Lake Central 20-yard line and defensive back Joe Sadusakas returned it for a touchdown.
But the Tigers broke the game open in the fourth quarter on a 19-play, 99-yard drive that was capped off with a nine-yard touchdown run by Hines to put them up 23-7. Crystal Lake would seal the victory on another rushing touchdown moments later.
Grant had a tough night getting their offense going as they saw only 10 first downs.
“This year has been ridiculous,” Grant coach Kurt Rous said. “It is bad enough when you have to play your second-string quarterback, but we were on our fourth tonight.”
Crystal Lake moves on to face Cary-Grove.
When Tigers head coach, Matt Fralick was asked of the mindset of his team would change due to a potential game against a team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season, he scoffed at the notion.
“It has not changed,’ Fralick said. ‘‘It is one week at a time. Simply it is, ‘why not us?’ ’’