CARY, Ill. – It all caught up to Crystal Lake South’s Brad Walovitch moments after the Gators’ 10-7 win over No. 16 Cary-Grove on Friday.
“I’m going to pass out,” said Walovitch, whose Crystal Lake South team improved to 3-0.
Walovitch didn’t, but no one would have questioned why if he had. On his 18th birthday, Walovitch had minutes earlier connected on a career-long 51-yard field goal in the final seconds of Friday’s to defeat rival Cary-Grove (2-1) in the Fox Valley Valley matchup.
“That was the best birthday present,” Walovitch said. “Oh, my God, I couldn’t believe it went in. I didn’t think I hit it good at all. I saw it was straight. I was just hoping it was over.”
Walovitch couldn’t even remember making a field goal from that distance during practice. His comfort level was at most from 45 yards. Even earlier in the game, he had attempted from 52 yards out and missed badly with the ball landing at the front of the end zone and almost to the right sideline.
Originally, Walovitch’s game-winning attempt was going to be a 46-yarder, but a Crystal Lake South false start pushed it back 5 yards. The extra yards actually loosened Walovitch up. With the game tied and the worst outcome being overtime, he had nothing to lose.
“I took the pressure off myself,” Walovitch said. “I got a ton of support from my teammates. I was lucky enough to put it through.”
Teammate Reese Dziedzic was one of those supporters, but Dziedzic was also realistic. Like everyone else, he had witnessed Walovitch’s earlier attempts and knew Walovitch hadn’t made a field goal all season.
“He’s been missing them all year, so I was a little worried, but it was his birthday and he’s a great kicker,” Dziezdic said. “I knew he was going to make it. I was just sitting on the sideline praying for him. I closed my eyes right when he kicked it, and I opened my eyes and saw it go through.”
Dziezdic had earlier played in his role of hero in Crystal Lake South’s upset. First, he caught a 9-yard touchdown pass with 11:09 remaining to tie the game at 7-7.
Later on the final drive with the Gators facing a fourth and 10 from Cary-Grove’s 43-yard line, Crystal Lake South coach Chuck Ahsmann called for a fake punt. The ball was snapped to Dziezdic, and he ran for a 14-yard gain and a first down. Three plays later, Walovitch hit the game-winner.
“We had that called against us six to seven years ago against Rock Island in the playoffs, and it just killed us,” Ahsmann said. “We actually call it the ‘Rock Island Fake’ because the kids know the history of that call.”
Outside of Crystal Lake’s two scores and a 17-yard touchdown run by Ryan Mahoney in the first half, both teams’ defenses were the story of the game.
There were 11 first downs in total on Friday. There were 15 punts. Each team forced a turnover. Crystal Lake South’s defense allowed Cary-Grove 99 yards in total and just 33 yards in the second half. Cary-Grove’s defense wasn’t much worse. The Gators had 160 yards total offense.
It was the second consecutive season Crystal Lake South defeated Cary-Grove. The Gators won last year and went on to take the conference title.