CARY – In a game that Cary-Grove won largely by executing the smallest of details, Gyanni Kanellakis made the biggest of plays.
The junior cornerback recorded two monstrous interceptions to halt Antioch scoring chances, the Trojans were 4-for-4 on fourth-down conversions, and the entire Trojan defense turned in a gritty performance in its 14-7 victory in a Class 6A second-round slugfest at Al Borher Field.
The win propels C-G (9-2) into a rematch next week with Fox Valley Conference foe Prairie Ridge in the quarterfinals. PR thumped C-G, 42-7, in Week 8.
DEFENSE STANDS TALL
Both squads came into the contest with high-powered offenses – Antioch entered the contest averaging 27.5 points per game while C-G scored at a 31.3-per-game clip – but it was the C-G defense that made just enough plays at the right time to secure the Trojans’ 12th trip to the quarterfinal in the past 16 seasons.
C-G's defense limited Antioch (8-3) to just 26 yards rushing and 174 total yards. In addition to Kanellakis’ interceptions, Nathan Splitt recorded a third pick for C-G.
“The defense played outstanding football today,” C-G coach Brad Seaburg said, “and offensively we did just enough to sustain drives and take time off the clock.”
Kanellakis’ first interception came after the Trojans mishandled the second-half kickoff and gave Antioch possession at the Trojan 28. Kanellakis’ pick of Antioch QB Alex Kutcher, starting in just his fourth game due to a broken collarbone suffered by starter Athan Kaliakmanis, in the end zone squelched one scoring opportunity while his second came early in the fourth quarter as Antioch was driving toward a potential game-tying score.
“On the first one, I saw the tight end come my way, but I saw the ball the entire way and just made a play on the ball,” Kanellakis said. “On the second one, I read their come-back route and was in the right spot to make the play.”
WE'VE SEEN THIS BEFORE
If ever an offensive performance could be labelled as “classic Cary-Grove football,” it was the Trojans’ effort Saturday. Of their 308 total yards, 275 of them came on 59 rushes behind the blocking of linemen Nathan Gamez, Nathan Desmet, Evan Hissong, Ryan Beeksma, Zach Stolz and Maximus Katsenos.
Quarterback Luke Eleftheriou threw only five passes, completing two for 33 yards, but he rushed 21 times for 76 yards. Fullback Blake Skol pounded his way to 108 yards on 20 carries against a stout Antioch defensive front.
“Those (linemen) did a great job and all I did was hit the holes they created for me,” Skol said. “(Antioch) came in with a good game plan against us, but we’ve been in this type of situation many times before and our playoff experience helped us win.”
PICKS LEAD TO TDs
Following Splitt’s interception in the first quarter, C-G opened the scoring on a 23-yard sweep around right end by Wade Abrams.
The Sequoits responded with an 11-play drive capped when Kutcher leaped over the top of the pile on fourth down and stretched the ball into the end zone to knot the game at 7.
Kanellakis’ first pick set up the Trojans second TD, a 4-yard run by Eleftheriou with 6:34 left in the third.
C-G turned the ball over on downs in its ensuing possession and Antioch mounted a drive and was poised to tie the game when Kanellakis intercepted the ball around midfield.
“In games like this it’s the small things – special teams, a dropped pass here or there – that make the difference,” Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said. “But give Cary-Grove credit. They capitalized on our mistakes. That’s a good football team over there.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Gyanni Kanellakis, Cary-Grove, jr., DB
Kanellakis recorded two of Cary’s three interceptions. The first occurred in the end zone to start the third quarter and the other to halt an Antioch scoring drive early in the fourth quarter.
Antioch 0 0 7 0 – 7
Cary-Grove 7 0 7 0 – 14
CG – Abrams 23 run (Splitt kick), 3:47
CG – Eleftheriou 4 run (Splitt kick), 6:34
A – Kutcher 1 run (Weir kick), 3:02