History repeats as Trojans advance to round 2

Last Friday night marked exactly 56 years to the day since the very first Cary-Grove Trojans football game. To celebrate, the 2018 Trojans punched their ticket to the second round — for the fifteenth straight year.

Coincidentally, both the game in ‘62 and the one on Saturday were against the Wauconda Bulldogs. History repeats itself, in multiple ways.

The 49-7 playoff win was a true blue-and-white blowout. In fact, the Bulldogs offense didn’t even score until late in the fourth quarter, long after the Trojans had put in many of their JV guys (a welcome rarity in a playoff game).

One player who stood out for the Trojans was junior Jake Johnson. Johnson had multiple sacks, a blocked punt that set the Trojans up for a TD, and altogether dominated on defense.

Seeing Johnson play so well this season has brought a smile to many Trojan fans’ faces. He missed all of last season due to a terrible back injury that required surgery and a lot of recovery. It was definitely enough where quitting would have been understandable — some could even say smart.

But Johnson stayed on the sidelines and practiced as much as he could through his entire recovery. Reporting on the team last year, I personally saw Johnson supporting his teammates more than anyone else and helping any way he could on the sidelines, which makes this return and reward even sweeter.

“It’s amazing,” Johnson said post-game. “To know the challenges I’ve gone through, all the injuries I’ve faced. To come into a playoff game and perform well like this for the team — it’s spectacular.”

The victory is an infallible sign of a winning culture and consistency. It marks the fifteenth straight year that the Trojans have won their first round playoff game.

“It speaks to the level of consistency and commitment our kids have,” said Coach Brad Seaburg, who has been head coach for the last seven years. “We’re very fortunate. Every time you win a first-round game, you never take it for granted.”

While the team may have wanted to immediately look to their next game, no prep for week two can truly start until you know who you’re preparing for. That answer came on Saturday afternoon. The Kaneland Knights also blew out their first-round opponent, Von Steuben, by a score of 63-6. By the complicated laws of high school football bracketing, the Trojans fans and players also gained a welcome surprise: CG will host Kaneland this Saturday, an uncommon first two weeks at home.

The Knights won their conference, the mouthful that is the “Northern Illinois Big 12- East” (despite having only five teams in it). This was enough for an eighth seed in the conference. However, their 7-3 overall record and first-round blowout win over nine-seeded Von Steuben was impressive, and the Trojans are taking no chances in preparation. As always, every week is as important as the next, especially in the playoffs.

“You can’t win the second one before you win the first one, and so on,” Coach Seaburg reiterated. “We’re just trying to take it one game at a time right now.”

As for the rest of the FVC, all three playoff teams are continuing on. Fourteen-seeded Crystal Lake South pulled out a shutout upset over three-seed Kenwood. The final score was 49-0. Prairie Ridge won their game as well, defeating Hinsdale South 38-14. The Wolves will now play four-seeded Phillips, with the winner set to play the winner of CG/Kaneland in the third round. However, before all of that can even be thought of, there is a game to be played this Saturday at 1 p.m.

As Johnson properly described, this team is truly spectacular. They’re fun to watch, and as seen this past Friday, unchanged by the pressure of playoff football. Kaneland may be a test, but when have the Trojans not risen to the occasion this year, or the last 15 years for that matter?

The Trojans have an opportunity to keep this whole thing going, to get that one step closer to the ultimate goal, and they will try their absolute hardest to go out there and keep this big blue train rolling.