CRYSTAL LAKE – It had been a couple of years since Crystal Lake South celebrated a victory over crosstown rival Crystal Lake Central.
The Tigers struck first Friday night, and it could have been a third straight disappointment, but senior Trevor Keegan and the Gators weren’t about to let that happen.
South scored on its first play from scrimmage to answer and never looked back in a 40-21 victory over Central in Fox Valley Conference play.
After losing the first two games of the season – after holding fourth-quarter leads in both – South coach Rob Fontana said it was important for his team to get that winning feeling.
“These kids worked so hard in the offseason, so it’s nice for them to celebrate this one,” Fontana said. “You learn a lot about your team during tough losses, and I never saw doubt. I saw resiliency and a hungry group and that showed tonight.”
Keegan’s strange TD
Having not played on the punt return team up until Friday night, the highly-touted, Division-I prospect Keegan found himself on the line as Central was set to punt in a 7-7 game.
After the snap was fumbled, Central quarterback Aidan Ellinger picked up the ball and turned to try to get off a punt. Instead, the ball was kicked on a low line drive into the chest of Keegan.
All in one motion, the 6-foot-6, 295-pound lineman caught it and took off 35 yards down the field for a go-ahead touchdown. Just before crossing the goal line, Keegan shedded a tackle with a stiff arm like he had done it numerous times.
“That was my first-ever touchdown,” Keegan said with a laugh. “Since I’m never out there for punt return, I didn’t know whether to rush or not, so I was kind of just standing at the line (of scrimmage). He kicked it right to me, and I didn’t know what to do. ... I just started running.”
Keegan’s score was part of 40 straight points put up by the Gators (1-2, 1-1) after Central took an early lead.
South quarterback Ian Gorken saw his team fall twice in the first two weeks with leads and was focused on execution heading into Friday night’s rivalry game.
“This game is always circled on both teams' calendars,” Gorken said. “There’s always a lot of energy out there, and it’s about controlling it. It gets chippy and everything, but if you use that energy and focus on what you need to do, it will benefit you. We have a good team here.”
Gorken and the Gators offense wasted no time answering the Tigers' (0-3, 0-3) early touchdown. Running back Zach Borgert took the first play from scrimmage 72 yards for a score. Both Borgert and Gorken scored twice on runs, with the junior quarterback adding a long 56-yard score of his own in the second quarter.
“The whole team has been working so hard,” Gorken added. “It means a lot to see it finally pay off. It’s a good start, but we’re not satisfied.”
Borgert finished with 159 yards on the ground on 17 carries, while Gorken piled up 80 with his two scores.
Gorken also found Jacob Rana for South’s other score of the night – a 23-yard catch and run.
Beck effort not unnoticed
Despite falling for the third straight time to start the season, Central coach Jon McLaughlin saw senior wide receiver Anthony Beck put on a show of his own.
The 6-foot-4 Beck caught 11 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns Friday night. Ellinger found his big target for a 22-yard score on fourth-and-10 on the Tigers’ first drive before a late lob pass from five yards out in the final quarter.
“I liked our effort in the second half,” McLaughlin said. “I thought we showed some flashes of what kind of team we can be tonight, but it’s just not quite consistent enough yet for us to get wins. It’s a good group of kids, and we’re getting closer. We just need to put it all together in all three phases of the game.”
Ellinger ended the night throwing for 268 yards on 20-of-40 passing.
STAR OF THE GAME
Crystal Lake South, sr., OL/DL
Keegan blocked a punt on the fly, caught it and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown in Crystal Lake South’s 40-21 victory over Crystal Lake Central Friday night.
Crystal Lake South 40, Crystal Lake Central 21
Crystal Lake Central 7 0 0 14 – 21
Crystal Lake South 21 12 7 0 – 40
CLC – Beck 22 pass from Ellinger (Hush kick), 9:04.
CLS – Borgert 72 run (Kocemba kick), 8:47.
CLS – Keegan 35 return with blocked punt (Kocemba kick), 7:37.
CLS – Gorken 57 run (Kocemba kick), 5:17.
CLS – Borgert 15 run (run failed), 6:50.
CLS – Gorken 3 run (pass failed), 5:19.
CLS – Rana 23 pass from Gorken (Kocemba kick), 6:35.
CLC – Beck 5 pass from Ellinger (pass failed), 9:42.
CLC – Ellinger 1 run (Coss run), 6:32.